While it might seem that Christmas now starts somewhere around September 4, it's the next few weeks that make up the key Christmas trading period for c-stores.
According to UBUK commercial manager Nick Stewart, retailers shouldn't be afraid to take a chance and stock pack sizes that target the sharing market. "On snacks it's mainly sharing bags, so a lot of smaller outfits miss out on sales."
He adds: "It's about taking the seasonal opportunity and stocking things you may not stock year-round."
He says the same goes for the biscuit market: "People trade up and you have to merchandise the shop to meet the seasonal needs."
This year UBUK is launching seven new products including a limited edition cranberry & orange McVitie's Jaffa Cake, 250g selection pack of Carr's Table Water biscuits, a 700g sharing tin of Temptations and 900g tub of Family Circle.
Premier Foods trade sector controller for cash and carry and convenience, Karen Jones, says that small retailers need to grab the opportunity while it's there if they're not to miss out on sales: "It's a myth that shoppers do all their Christmas food shopping during a one-stop shop in supermarkets. They do a series of top-up shops in local stores - particularly for last-minute forgotten items or products they have run out of - so it's vital retailers have them on their shelves not only in the weeks running up to Christmas, but also in the final few hours before Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the days before New Year."
This year Premier is running a £2m advertising campaign on Bisto and putting advertising behind new Oxo concentrated liquid stock.
The company is also linking the Branston and Haywards brands
with joint promotions.
Most households keep a packed freezer over the festive period so
it's important for retailers to do the same. Birds Eye marketing manager Steve Thompson says: "Peas, in particular, are a Christmas favourite, with consumers often trading up to petits pois for an extra-special festive feast."
Of course, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without turkey, and Bernard Matthews' golden Norfolk turkey holds 66% of the frozen traditional turkey category at Christmas. The company is expecting to further increase its presence this year with a range of 1kg golden Norfolk turkey breast joints, ideal for smaller retailers with limited space in their freezer cabinets. The range is available in three of the most popular flavours: butter basted; pork, sage & onion stuffing; and bacon topped with a pork, sage & onion stuffing.
A £1m marketing campaign will support the launch.
Christmas dinner always includes the obligatory roast potatoes and Aunt Bessie's and McCain have both launched frozen versions.
Aunt Bessie's extra-crispy roast potatoes have already been successfully launched in the US where they delivered 50% incremental sales to the frozen potato category, claims the company.
McCain has introduced roast potatoes basted in goose fat. Marketing director Simon Eyles says: "Demand for goose fat has rocketed with the desire for roast potato perfection."
With Christmas comes more home entertaining and General Mills UK is helping retailers cater for this with the launch of Jus-Rol premium sausage rolls and premium chicken rolls. The sausage rolls are produced from 100% prime cuts of British pork, wrapped in Jus-Rol puff pastry, while the premium chicken rolls - a first for the brand - are made from 100% British chicken breast meat and wrapped in puff pastry.
As well as the basics, shoppers will want to find special Christmas lines in the chiller cabinet and manufacturers have obliged.
Anchor has relaunched its limited-edition festive range of real dairy creams - extra thick, extra thick with Courvoisier VS cognac and chocolate flavour mousse.
Fresh soup manufacturer New Covent Garden Food Co has introduced 'White Christmas'
as its soup of the month for the festive season.
The limited edition soup
is made from white onion, stilton cheese and white port. It will be available from December 3 in
Finally, Bel UK is helping retailers maximise their Christmas sales with the launch of a Christmas-themed Mini Babybel variety pot, containing 16 portions of the mini cheese in original and Cheddar flavours.
Of course, Christmas is key for snacks and nut sales. P&G brand Pringles has launched Christmas packs to boost sales. Special promotions are running across the range including a bogof on 230g packs. Marketing activity includes the search for a singing Pringles Christmas family, who will star in a Pringles TV ad on Christmas Day. Families can enter by uploading videos of themselves singing a Christmas song to www.pringles.com/Christmas.
P&G says that more than 43% of shoppers buy Pringles over the Christmas period. Seasonal merchandising for the brand includes 2D 'Merry Pringles' point of sale material and stands.
UBUK's Stewart says retailers who have off licences should look at cross-merchandising snacks with booze, and should definitely stock sharing packs. "About 40% of nut sales occur at Christmas, and it's a time when consumers change their buying habits, switching from standard dry roasted or whatever, to other flavours or cans."
This year UBUK is launching Santa's Big Nuts in gammon & mustard and red hot chilli, and KP Nuts Christmas sharing cans in cracked black pepper and maple syrup peanuts & cashews. Hula Hoops will also be available in a star shape in 'pigs in a blanket' flavour.
On the Go
With consumers busier than ever around the festive period, retailers need to check that their food-to-go offering is up to scratch.
Cuisine de France marketing manager Clare Hallam believes Christmas customers expect to find products with a festive twist. The company's new thaw-and-serve products include a pack of six traditional mince pies, a pack of nine mini mince pies, individual chocolate flake cakes, a six-pack of iced fruited finger buns and two mini tarts. Two bake-off savoury products complete the range: a turkey, stuffing & cranberry savoury slice and a cranberry & rosemary loaf.
Says Hallam: "We recognise that the time and ease of preparation at this busy time of year is of major importance. The range has been designed to limit preparation time while not compromising on quality or variety."
Retailers should not ignore the potential of their chiller aisles either, when it comes to food to go. Ginsters has entered the festive spirit with a limited-edition Christmas sandwich. The deep-filled turkey and cranberry sandwich includes prime British turkey, cranberry sauce, sage & spring onion stuffing, as well as Cumberland sausage and bacon. Rrp is £2.99.
In addition to its Christmas sandwich, the company is introducing a permanent all-day breakfast variant to its sandwich range and offering consumers an extra 25% extra free on its original Cornish pasty.
not forgetting Non food
It's not only food that consumers are looking for at Christmas, however. If you've got the space, it's worth looking at special packs suitable for last-minute gifts.
Adam Briggs, category manager for gifting at Unilever UK, says toiletries is the only major gift category in growth in the traditional stocking filler sector, and the company is responding to that demand with Christmas gift packs for its Lynx and Sure Sport ranges.
Sure Sport is launching three gift packs to appeal to a range of sports enthusiasts, available in Ultimate, Instinct and Blast fragrances.
The Ultimate pack comprises an anti-perspirant deodorant and shower gel, while the Instinct running-theme pack contains an additional gift; an MP3 music
The Blast wash bag pack contains an anti-perspirant deodorant and shower gel in a travelling bag, and comes with an exclusive two-for-one sports activity offer at one of 257 activity centres nationwide. Sports include sailing, indoor snowboarding and go-karting.
For women, there are nine gift packs from Dove, ranging from the simple stocking filler to multi-component packs for a total beauty regime including the Dove Beauty Essentials pack with a free personal organiser and the Dove Pro-Age weekend pack, aimed at women over 45, which includes a Rough Guide to European Mini Breaks pocket guide.
It might be cold outside, but it seems there's nothing hotter than ice cream over the festive season. According to Wall's, more than a third of ice cream sales take place in the winter season. This year Wall's brand Viennetta celebrates its 25th birthday. The company recommends retailers stock at least two variants. Vanilla and mint are the most popular flavours.
This year the Häagen-Dazs winter range includes double chocolate & cookies, a blend of dark Belgian chocolate, white chocolate ice cream and cookies.
Ferrero Rocher's new £4m marketing campaign will include TV advertising for its recently launched Ferrero Collection. The collection includes Ferrero Rocher, Rond Noir and Garden Coconut. Ads for the new collection break in December, while ads for original Ferrero Rocher have been aired this month. Raffaello will also be part of a sampling programme this Christmas.
Pernod Ricard is spotlighting Tia Maria this Christmas with sponsorship of Dancing with the Stars on UKTV Gold and Dirty Dancing - Time of Your Life on Living TV. Both kick-off this month.
Cadbury has added to its Christmas cake ranges with Orange Crisp Bites. The cakes consist of a chocolate flavoured sponge topped with orange creme and orange crisp pieces covered in Cadbury milk chocolate. The Cadbury Family Yule Log and Festive Cakes with Flake have been redesigned and renamed Triple Chocolate Yule Log and Festive Flake Cakes respectively.
Highgrove Food Distribution has extended its Fine Foods range with a collection of stocks, including beef, chicken and fish. It has also launched a fats range comprising beef dripping and duck fat.
Mr Crumb has launched a special edition cranberry, juniper berry & cinnamon stuffing. The stuffing has a chilled shelf life of 18 days.
Warburtons has brought back its special edition Winter Loaf this year. The loaf is part of the company's seasonal Fruit Loaf range and features snowman packaging.
Furniss has launched Winter Woolies, a limited-edition gift tin containing Furniss Cornish clotted cream shortbreads.
Nature's Table has launched three limited-edition snacks for Christmas: yogurt cranberry; macadamia & cranberry mix; and white chocolate strawberries.