Get a head start on the longer Easter opportunity by ensuring your treat products are all ready to go from the beginning of January.

Since the skeletons came out of the closet in October, there has been no let-up for busy c-stores. While their shopfloors were still piled high with pumpkins, savvy retailers were planning how to inject some sparkle into their Christmas sales. And now that the festive season is in full swing, it’s time to look beyond the baubles and make sure all is set to elevate your Easter sales.

“Up to 300 million seasonal product units are sold from January to Easter, making it one of the most important times of the year for chocolate sales,” says Chirag Shah, seasonal brand manager at Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK.

Ketul Desai enjoys a lucrative Easter. He claims sales were up year on year at all three of his stores in Suffolk, London and Hertfordshire.

“Creme Eggs are really popular. Even if you had them available over a 12-month period they would sell,” he states. “In January we sold 436 Creme Eggs at my Londis store in Suffolk. In February we sold 518, we sold 390 in March and 780 in April.”

As a result of analysing last Easter’s sales data, he is increasing his pre-sale order for this Easter. “You have to rely on data with seasonal events – look at what has and hasn’t performed well last year. Last Easter I ordered two FSDUs on pre-sale. This time I have an FSDU coming on 28 January with 10 cases of Creme Eggs (that’s 480 eggs) and I have a second coming on 25 February and a third on 25 March, so I have 1,440 eggs coming and then I’ll order more as we go.

“We sell them at 60p each, or three for £1.20 across all three shops. They are in FSDUs and on the counter from January to April.”

And it isn’t just Ketul who has witnessed good Creme Egg sales. Mondelez claims four Creme Eggs were sold every second in 2018, bringing with it £57m in brand sales, up by 22%. The firm credits its Hunt for the White Creme Egg campaign for this growth.

“2018 was the second year of Creme Egg hunting season so we were everywhere: we were on TV; we had the Creme Egg cam; we had the white Creme Egg activation; a huge digital campaign; and a partnership with Deliveroo and influencers,” says brand manager Delia Metral. No one found the elusive £2,000 top prize egg, but nevertheless the campaign convinced consumers to purchase Creme Eggs in their droves.

This year the firm has upped the ante. Mondelez is investing a total of £10m during the 2019 season, with marketing support beginning on 1 January with the relaunch of Hunt the White Creme Egg and a TV push. Whereas in the past the campaign has run exclusively through the convenience channel, this year it is running across all retail channels and the consumer prize money has been increased. However, there is still an extra bonus for c-stores. “Consumers can win up to £10,000 if they find a white creme egg and, if won in their store, a convenience retailer can win up to £1,000, which is exclusive to the channel,” says Mondelez International trade communications manager Susan Nash.

However, if retailers really want to benefit from this investment, then the key is to stock up early. Metral claims that Easter treats are in demand from 1 January. “The days are dark, it’s quite cold and you want something to cheer you up so you could pick, for instance, a Creme Egg or Mini Eggs.”

She notes that Cadbury has a 64% market share of self-treats, and that Creme Egg is the number one brand at Easter and the number one chocolate product in January.

Nash adds: “It tends to be the week between Christmas and new year that the majority of people are getting their stock out, which is absolutely the right thing to do because we’re on TV in the first week of January and they need to be ready.”

Sharing bags offer a flexible option

Easter offers a huge opportunity for casual sharing products such as pouches, notes Mondelez.

“People are spending more time with their families in the run-up to Easter, staying at home watching TV, and we’ve seen as a result the pouch segment has been growing,” says brand manager Delia Metral.

“For 2019, we’re planning to launch an Easter Heroes pouch with Mini Eggs inside (rrp £5.69). It can be used for sharing inside, as well as for egg hunts.”

Trade communications manager Susan Nash claims the pouches give retailers the chance to increase basket spend. “It’s a good trade-up for convenience stores,” she says. “Rather than people spending £1 or £1.99, they’re encouraging people to move up.”

She predicts that the product will sell throughout the Easter season. “It has flexibility – it’s suitable for early on in the season and it will sell right up to and beyond if needed. The Heroes Easter pouch is more versatile than shell eggs. It’s especially worth considering if you’re in an area where there’s lots of competition from places selling shell eggs.”

In addition, Cadbury Heroes favourite Cadbury Creme Egg Twisted will be launching in a bag format (rrp £1.49), which will help to target shoppers who are looking for new products.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery agrees that retailers need to give Easter treats prominence in the early part of the season. “Given Easter falls late this year (on 21 April), the run-up to Easter is even longer and, as a result, the products that retailers prioritise throughout the season should vary. Early on in the season it is important to focus on treats.” says Shah.

The firm recommends that retailers stock Galaxy Golden Eggs, which has generated strong sales since its launch in 2016 and become the number two small sharing bag during the Easter season.

Malteaster Bunny is another must-stock line. Mars Wrigley Confectionery claims that the product introduced 165,000 incremental households to self-treats in 2018, making it the second most popular product in the self-treat category.

This Easter Mars Wrigley Confectionery will be supporting its famous brands with three new campaigns to keep Easter treats front of mind. These are backed by more than £1.2m in spend, which is quadruple last year’s media budget.

Nestlé is hoping the longer spring season will benefit sales of mini eggs. The mini eggs segment is worth £73m and is in long-term growth, it says. Last year its mini eggs sales were up 62% year on year despite the 2018 spring season being two weeks shorter than the previous year.

For 2019 family favourites Smarties mini eggs and Milkybar mini eggs will again be at the heart of the range, with Orange Smarties eggs back after a successful launch in 2018. All retail at £1. It has also added two new ‘more to share’ bags, with Smarties mini eggs bag and the Milkybar mini eggs bag in 300g with a £3 rrp.

To give its products an edge the company has invested in a redesign for the full spring range. A new nest design will feature centrally on the front of every pack, alongside clearer descriptions of what each contains.

The Smarties and Milkybar Farmyard Friends also return for 2019. The four different foil-wrapped hollow chocolate animals retail at 65p. Each Farmyard Friends outer will have a mix of all four of either the Smarties or Milkybar animals, so consumers can choose their favourite.

Put a spring in your step with premium chocolate

Spring occasions offer c-stores an ideal opportunity to promote their premium chocolate as consumers search for giftworthy purchases.

“Shopper spend is up 3.5% year on year on Valentine’s-related items, while one in five shoppers spend extra to celebrate Mother’s Day,” says Chirag Shah, seasonal brand manager at Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK.

“Maltesers Truffles are Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK’s first step into a premium chocolate offering, providing a more indulgent eating experience for consumers through their truffle consistency, while still retaining the brand’s familiar crunch,” says Shah.

“Both product and packaging extend Maltesers into an all-year-round premium gifting experience.”

The rrps for Maltesers Truffles are: 4g Token Gift Box £1.99; 200g Medium Gift Box £4.99; and 336g Large Gift Box £7.49.

Organic chocolate brand Seed and Bean is equally convinced that spring occasions are an opportunity for premium chocolate to shine. “Retailers must ensure they stand out by offering grown-up chocolates alongside commonplace novelties,” says owner Oliver Shorts.

“Premium has its place and retailers can showcase ranges that offer that little bit extra. Select unique and inspiring flavours that deliver more than the usual milky sweetness of most eggs and novelty treats. A high-quality chocolate bar that tastes and looks distinctive is deserving of a space in an Easter display.”

Seed and Bean offers 22 flavours – 15 of which are vegan-certified. The brand is preparing a choice of gift packs for Easter – a Classic Collection and a more adventurous Botanicals selection. Gift packs will start at £10.99, and a smaller mini-bar gift set will be priced at about £4.99.


Quick off the mark

Easter treats are big business at Spar Bovally in Limavady, Belfast, and team leader Simon Quigg wastes no time in getting them on shelf. “Malteaster Bunnies do quite well, but Creme Eggs are the best. Creme Eggs sell really, really well in,” says Simon. “We do our Easter order in the summertime. We don’t put out shell eggs until February, but Creme Eggs are out after Boxing Day. Everyone goes ‘Oh my, is that Easter stock in already?’ but they’re still buying.”

Simon explains that the store doesn’t use dump bins and so Easter treats are displayed on a large stand near the tills where there’s plenty of space. “As the weeks go by, they’ll be moved even closer to the till and we’ll add more boxes around the till,” he says.

Sales are given an extra boost thanks to staff upselling. “In the past, we’ve had product of the week with Creme Eggs, so staff will be trying to upsell them,” says Simon.

Staff at Spar Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire also make an effort to promote Easter treats. “In front of the tills we have wells where you can put product in, so we have staff upselling stuff such as Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs,” says store manager Susan Preston.

She claims that getting products out at the very start of the season is vital to the store’s success. “We’re a very busy store and last Easter was the same as it always is – sales are always good. As soon as Christmas has gone, we have Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs in store. We start them in a dumpbin at the front. It’s usually the Creme Eggs that come in first, followed by Mini Eggs.”

Over at One Stop in Saughton Mains Gardens, Edinburgh, there’s a wide selection of Easter treats. “We get our small Easter products in just after Christmas. We have foil-wrapped chicks, cows, Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs,” says owner Tanika Bassi. “We put them all out from mid-January. Mini Eggs are our best seller, they go really well. We hang them on clip-strips around the store – in the main chocolate stand, in front of crisps – everywhere we can find space.”

Tanika is one of many retailers witnessing strong sales of Mini Eggs. In fact, 157 units of Cadbury Mini Eggs were sold per minute in 2018, claims Mondelez.

The firm has every intention of increasing sales in 2019. “We’ve seen there’s a major trend in the UK around baking, so in the lead-up to Easter consumers are online looking up recipes with Mini Eggs for inspiration,” say Metral. “That’s a trend we want to tap into. We’ll have an in-store activation and social media posts with Mini Egg recipes inspiring consumers to bake.”

In addition to Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs, Mondelez is adding a new treat line. “Two power brands will unite this Easter to bring the consumer a popular and exciting new flavour – Cadbury Oreo Egg,” says Metral. “This new product aims to drive sales in the category incrementally, after it proved its success in Canada with 62% of sales being incremental to Cadbury Creme Egg.”

The product retails at 58p and is expected to attract a new audience to Easter treats – younger consumers who are Oreo fans, aged between 16 and 34 years old.

Simon isn’t 100% sold on the new product. “I don’t know how the Oreo eggs will perform. There are some people who like Oreo and others who don’t, so they divide the market,” he says.

Advice from the experts

Mondelez’s Delia Metral gives retailers her recommendations for a happy Easter:

Timing is key to maximising the season so be prepared to get a fast start in January

Start the countdown with single-serve products, when consumers are looking to keep their spirits up after Christmas. Stock best-selling lines including the number one single-serve Cadbury Creme Egg and the number two brand at Easter, Cadbury Mini Eggs

Continue to stock these for the duration of the season. Mondelez single-serve products accounted for 64% of the sub-category last Easter

Make the most of suppliers’ marketing investment. Cadbury Creme Egg will be on TV from 1 January running through until April.

Susan in Oswaldtwistle is more optimistic. “Change is good,” she says. “Everyone gets bored with the same thing. That’s why I change my displays every year.”

Last year one of Susan’s January displays focused on Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs, flanked by hanging bags of Creme Egg Minis, Oreo Mini Egg and Daim Mini Egg. A second display was centred around a Hunt for the White Creme Egg stand, alongside hanging bags of Smarties Mini Eggs, Orange Smarties Mini Eggs, Milky Bar Mini Eggs and Galaxy Golden Eggs. “As soon as I have plenty of stock and I’ve got a bay free then I’ll build a display,” she says.

She also notes that multibuy deals can be an effective way of increasing Easter treat sales. “Sometimes we’ll do deals like two Creme Eggs for 80p,” she says. “That’ll run for the early part of the year to get it going and then we’ll take it off and they’ll sell at a normal price. Sales don’t slow down, though – if people want Creme Eggs, they’ll have Creme Eggs. They don’t scan, but every single member of staff knows the barcode!”

Meanwhile, Spar Princess Street in Manchester, owned by Paul Stone, offered three Malteaster Bunnies for £1 and two Creme Eggs for 80p in a striking display, which involved staff artfully stacking shelf-ready packaging.

Tanika has also seen success with multibuy deals on treats. “Mini Eggs are normally on offer – for example, a big bag for £1 or three small cartons for £1,” she says. “Most people are focused on multibuys and offers.”

Ensuring you have an irresistible seasonal offer featuring all the bestsellers, npd and strong promotions is crucial for a successful Easter. But be warned: if you don’t get your treat products out early enough, you will miss out. “Every day they’re not ready is a lost day of sales,” says Nash.