Despite global warming doing its best to rewrite the seasons, at least we can be sure of one thing: people will always want chocolate in the spring. And while many of your customers will have kicked off the new year by swearing off the stuff, you know that as soon as you get the filled eggs onto the counter, their resolve will crumble.
According to market analysts Mintel, Easter is the biggest market sector in chocolate confectionery with a market share of 54%, and is dominated by children's products. Mother's and Father's Day have increased market share in seasonal chocolate confectionery from 2004-2006 by 0.6% and 0.3% respectively.
Mintel says that Easter continues to be dominated by eggs, accounting for more than 85% of products sold, with sales up in premium shell eggs and filled eggs. Manufacturers, it seems, are focusing more on trading up as the multiples wage their annual price war in standard eggs.
In the children's market novelties and toys in eggs continue to be offered to appeal to parents who want to limit their children's chocolate consumption and who want added value as well.
However, according to IRI figures supplied by Masterfoods, the impulse retail sector continues to miss out on confectionery opportunities at this time of year. For instance, total Easter sales in impulse are down 6.6%, while in grocery they are up 11.7%, and in the traditional Easter sector impulse sales are down 10.8% year on year, while grocery sales are up 6.9%.
According to Hancocks purchasing director Richard Brittle, Easter continues to be a contentious issue for independents: "In 2006 half of our customers didn't get involved in Easter because they feared losing a price war with the supermarkets. The other half planned carefully and selected a considered range that would suit their customers and allow them to differentiate from the supermarkets. This half performed well and proved that Easter can be profitable."
He says that Hancocks' 2006 Easter sales rose by 30% on 2005. "Our challenge for 2007 is to communicate this to all of our customers so that they can all benefit," he says.
Brittle says that retailers need to look beyond the core products at this time - the cash and carry will be stocking a number of exclusives not available to supermarkets, including an exclusive egg from Cadbury Trebor Bassett (CTB). "The supermarkets fight over a very narrow range of Easter confectionery and there is so much more to consider besides this."
Brittle says that c-store retailers should buy in small quantities at first and then look at what sells well, and all retailers should have a Cadbury Crème Egg counter display unit as early as possible. Mini eggs, bags and tubes also sell well early on in the season.
He predicts that Lindt Gold Bunnies will again be a big success, as will the new Cadbury Chick (see below). Other recommendations include: Nestlé Mug eggs; Nestlé Smarties eggs (with free book); Mars Celebrations packs; and Mini Eggs (with a buy two cases save £3 deal); and Kinnerton 99p eggs. An Easter 2 Day Special will take place in 15 Hancocks depots on February 26 and 27. Hancocks is also stocking a range of Easter goods such as picnic baskets with candies (£6.99 with a 37% margin) and a watering can with eggs (£3.29, 27% margin).
The aforementioned Cadbury Chick is new for this year. The 200g chocolate chick includes Cadbury Milk Buttons with a rrp of £2.79. CTB head of customer relations Mike Tipping says: "The cute design is perfect for giving to kids, and the Cadbury brand is one that mums know and trust."
Tipping says that as 70% of Cadbury buttons are bought for the under 10s, the Cadbury Chick should have strong appeal to parents.
In the sharing sector the company is concentrating on targeting mums, which it says are the core shoppers at this time of year. The manufacturer reckons that this market will be looking to spend £2.49 to £5.99 on sharing products such as Cadbury Roses and Cadbury Heroes cartons. Both brands will be supported by pos and promotional support this year. Cadbury Roses Truffles will also be a key line for the company this Easter.
In shell eggs CTB points to its research which suggests that size matters to consumers, and is enhancing its large shell adults standard range with the launch of two new variety packs, rrp £4.99: Cadbury Flake Variety, which contains a selection of three different Flake bars; Cadbury Dairy Milk Variety, containing a selection of Cadbury Dairy Milk miniatures; and Fruit and Nut egg. In the large shell Cadbury Dairy Milk and Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel, the size of the block chocolate within the egg has been increased from 200g to 500g.
In the giant egg category CTB is adding a new product, Cadbury Crunchie Egg (rrp £9.99), which includes a giant milk chocolate shell and six Cadbury Crunchie bars. In its premium range CTB is expanding its Easter Egg Delight range with what it calls the 'ultimate egg': a thick milk chocolate shell around a dark chocolate shell, around another milk chocolate shell, and inside are three Cadbury milk chocolate eggs (rrp £14.99).
Also new in the Delight range is a Dark Cadbury Easter Egg Delight, which combines two shells of dark 63% cocoa chocolate with six Cadbury milk chocolate truffle eggs (rrp £9.99). CTB has also redesigned the outer tags on the entire Delight range. Finally, spearheading Cadbury's Easter campaign is, of course, Cadbury Crème egg. For more on this, see Stocklines, p42.
New from Nestlé for 2007 in its filled eggs range is a Rolo filled egg, which will sit alongside the Smarties filled egg and Milkybar filled eggs with an improved raspberry-flavoured centre (rrp 38p). In mini eggs Nestlé is hoping to engage fans of dark chocolate with Black Magic mini eggs pouch. According to sales communication manager Graham Walker: "Black Magic has the highest consumer awareness of any dark chocolate brand."
Walker says that mini eggs are key for retailers as they help to extend the season and should be stocked as early as possible. In gifting the company is focusing on favourite brands such as Smarties and Milkybar small eggs and KitKat Chunky, Yorkie, Rolo, Smarties, Milkybar and Aero in the medium eggs range. There are also developments in the standard plus eggs (rrp £3.99), which were created last year for people who want more than a standard egg but don't want to fork out a fiver for them. Nestlé has introduced the Pink Smarties egg, which has a jewellery set and pink Smarties inside a chocolate egg. Another Smarties egg contains a colouring set inside.
New to the range are the Yorkie mug egg for men, Aero Bubbles mug egg and a KitKat heritage mug egg to celebrate KitKat's 70th birthday.
In special eggs is Milkybar Buttons Mr Potato Head egg, which teams the popular toy with the white chocolate brand, and the Smarties Book Prize egg which includes a winning book from the Nestlé Children's Book Prize, rrp £4.99. The book alone would retail at £4.99, making the egg an attractive proposition.
Also adding value are the Smarties wobbling bunny money box egg (rrp £3.99); the Yorkie Subbuteo egg, which has been updated for 2007 with an exclusive free kick game; and KitKat Chunky GP Championship Egg containing GP Championship PC game (rrp £4.99).
For adults, the company is launching Aero bubbles premium eggs (rrp £4.99), After Eight Straws (rrp £6.99) and Black Magic premium egg (rrp £6.99), which includes dark chocolate truffle mini eggs. New for 2007 in giant eggs (rrp £6.99) are variants from KitKat Chunky and Aero, both including five bars of their respective brands. The company is backing its spring range with a £10m advertising campaign starting this month.
Masterfoods is bringing back its Galaxy Chocolate Caramel Filled Egg (rrp 36p) this year, but has refined the flavoured caramel centre to make it taste more of chocolate. Both the company's Mars Filled Egg Singles and Mars Mini eggs will have a new showbox this year.
New to the mini egg range is a Galaxy Chocolate Caramel Mini Egg Gift Pack featuring 27 individually wrapped mini eggs with a rrp of £2.69. The entire Galaxy range has had a redesign for this spring with warm colours reflecting the indulgent attributes of the brand.
In the adult eggs market Masterfoods is introducing two new eggs under the Galaxy brand. The Galaxy All About Chocolate egg (rrp £4,99) is targeted at chocolate fans and contains a large hollow egg with two full-size impulse bars of Galaxy chocolate and a large block of Galaxy chocolate. The Galaxy Minstrels egg (rrp £4.99) contains a large hollow egg and two large bags of Minstrels.
In its boxed range Masterfoods is launching a new Celebrations with Mini Eggs (rrp £4.25). For the first time in 10 years three of the twistwraps will be replaced with special-edition mini eggs; the cartons will be decorated with Easter themes, but will still be recognisable to customers. The Mars, Galaxy and Galaxy Caramel chocolates will be replaced with their mini eggs counterparts and will be available until the end of Easter. Masterfoods trade relations manager Andrea Taylor says: "To encourage multiple purchases and draw consumers to the Easter fixture, we recommend retailers display the Masterfoods Easter lines alongside each other if shelf space allows, as big brands bring consumers to the fixture."
hearts and flowers
Of course, spring doesn't start with Easter. CTB says that core shoppers for Valentine's Day are men aged over 18 who are looking to spend £3.99-£9.99, so it is concentrating on its Cadbury Milk Tray, Cadbury Roses Luxury Collection and Cadbury Flake Moments brands. For Mother's Day, the company recommends 275g cartons of Cadbury Roses and Cadbury Roses Truffle Selection 200g box.
Nestlé recommends retailers stock its Black Magic 420g (rrp £5.99) for gifting and its Yorkie 300g 'Yor My Chunky Hunk' bar (rrp £2.49) for men. For Mother's Day it suggests Dairy Box 420g (rrp £5.99) and Quality Street 'love you mum' cartons (rrp £4.19), the latter with removable sleeve.
The company also offers two special Father's Day gifts with its Yorkie 'You're the daddy' (rrp £2.49) and Quality Street 'Dad you're a star' (rrp £4.19) special packs.
Hancocks advises retailers to stock its Heart Vase (£3.99), which contains a fabric rose and a selection of heart-shaped chocolates, which offers a 26% margin. Also for Valentine's Day is a range of Lovers Candy with a 42.3% margin including candy bras, thongs and posing pouches (rrp £4.99).
Hancocks suggests that retailers also look at Guylian's 200g box of chocolate hearts, new for 2007 and retailing at £1.69, and Duc d'O I Love U Heart Box, retailing at £2.49. Lindor also has a Heart Gift Box which retails at £4.99.
From Terry's comes a first: a limited-edition Terry's orange shaped like a heart (rrp £2.39). Kraft Foods channel and communications manager Sarah Petts says that the shape change has come about as a response to public need: "We've looked at what consumers want and they want special packs and products that communicate the message that they want to give."
The company is also bringing back its removable 'To my love', 'I love you' and 'Lover boy' sleeves for its 400g Toblerone bar. For Mother's Day, Petts recommends 225g boxes of Terry's All Gold (£3.19), particularly as most of the brand's consumers are women over 55.
With the sheer amount of products on offer, this season could be just what you need to put the spring back into your step.
According to a survey by Mintel, 40% of people who buy fresh cut flowers do so as a gift. The survey conducted in 2006 questioned more than 700 adults about why they bought flowers. It showed that a romantic 42% just wanted to show the person they love that they care about them.
Another Mintel survey from the previous year showed that 40% of respondents had a tendency to leave gift buying until the last minute and flowers suited this need perfectly - the ultimate impulse gift buy. In the 2006 survey it was more likely to be single men who bought flowers as a token of love.
Mintel recommends retailers concentrate on targeted campaigns during Valentine's Day (flowers being the number one gift choice over confectionery) and Mother's Day, to encourage increased value purchases.
? St Valentine's Day: Gorgeous and Chocolate Classics
? Mother's Day: Gorgeous, Mint Collection and Bendicks Classics
? Father's Day; Mint collection, Mingles, Bendicks Chocolate Ginger, Toffifee
? Easter: Bendicks Gift
Eggs, Mint Collection and Gorgeous.
How to sell more wine
The spring period is the second highest selling peak after Christmas for wine, due to family occasions and gifting opportunities. According to Gallo impulse channel controller Ian Thomas, Valentine's Day alone last year saw wine sales increase by 5% over the previous three weeks (AC Nielsen). A particularly good performer has been blush wine - over the same period blush wine sales rose in impulse by 12%. Thomas says: "Blush wine sales now account for about 25-30% of our business."
Wine sales in the impulse sector on Mother's Day 2006 were up by 6% on the previous year, against an overall market rise of just 2%. "What's probably happening is that people forget to buy their mum a present and then dash into their local store on the way over to see them, making impulse really important," says Thomas.
Easter is the biggest of all the spring occasions for wine sales, due to the fact that it's a big family occasion, giving the joint opportunity for wine buying for consumption with meals and for gifting. This has led to a sales rise of 10% (although at the same period blush wine leapt by 20%). Thomas says: "Bank holidays and big family occasions are when people want to get together but also relax with a glass of wine on a Sunday - there being no work the next day - and it's the kind of time where people try wine."
In gifting, he says that the company is planning to repeat its successful partnership with Lindt chocolate again this year, available in Budgens, Co-op and through Makro. Also offered is the Coastal wooden gift pack available through Costco and Makro. It retails for about £20.
For retailers who want to gain the most from wine sales at this time of year, Thomas believes retailers should have an offering that stretches across price points and offers a good variety of countries of origin and of colours.
He says customers should be encouraged to trade up, particularly with gift options, and retailers should draw attention to wine with prominent displays and cross-merchandising
with other linked products such as chocolates
Mahesh Shah, Milco, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
"We create a separate display for near the checkout on these special spring occasions. We mainly stock £2-£3 eggs which go well, and all the brands do well for us.
"We also sell a lot of boxed chocolates at Valentine's Day and Mother's Day."
David Patient, Nearbuys, Canvey Island, Essex
"We do gift packs with sweets, flowers and wine for Valentine's Day for about £10-£15, depending on the wine. We do the same for Mother's Day and Easter, too. People often pick up two or three things anyway.
"Easter is most successful for us, followed by Mother's Day."