You might think that after all the indulgence of Christmas, and the numerous New Year’s Resolutions to diet, consumers wouldn’t be interested in chocolate come January. But while their intentions may be good, the reality is that many find small chocolate novelties irresistible whatever the time of year.

Easter accounts for over 30% of seasonal value sales within confectionery and, what’s more, it’s growing, says Nestlé UK Trade Communications Manager Graham Walker.

Around a quarter of Easter sales come in the early season (Dec 31 - Feb 3), while a further quarter are in mid-season (Feb 4 to Mar 3), according to Nestlé, and for that reason retailers need to be prepared. “Since 2009 total Easter shopping occasions have grown by 12% from 57.7m to 64.5m in 2012. The average convenience shopper is also now buying more packs (up 8%), more often (up 6%) and spending more (up 22%) across the season.” But don’t go rushing to fill up your shelves with shell eggs just yet. The key to making the most of the Easter season is to ensure that the right products are on shelf at the right time. A whopping 97% of early season sales come from impulse, claims seasonal brand manager Andy McQuade, so stocking small self-eat and bitesize products is vital.

“Retailers should ensure they remerchandise their store with Easter products as soon as the Christmas period has concluded,” says Nisa business manager, David Stokes. “As national TV advertising of Easter products commences on December 26 it is wise for retailers to capitalise on the higher margin impulse lines.”

Hancocks Cash & Carry agrees that Easter starts early in c-stores. “As soon as Christmas has passed, retailers should start to think about stocking a range of impulsive self-treats, including filled eggs. These are generally not planned purchases and because they are not available all year round, their fresh presence from January commands plenty of attention. Convenience stores have an advantage over supermarkets here in that they can serve the impulsive nature of shoppers far better.”

One egg that can easily be overlooked at Easter is Ferrero’s Kinder Surprise. While the product is on sale all year round, sales rocket over Easter, so it is worth reviewing their positioning in-store from January onwards to ensure you are making the most of their potential. “If independent retailers are to capitalise on the significant £272m Easter sales opportunity ,” says customer development director Levi Boorer, “then stocking Kinder Surprise is essential.

Retailer’s view

“We have our first delivery on December 15, and put our products out on shelf two weeks before Christmas. You get the odd customer who complains that the products are out so early, but more often than not people buy them.

“We’ve ordered lots of smaller self-eat and bitesize products, such as Crème Eggs, Splats and MaltEaster Bunnies. With Crème Eggs, I think the novelty has worn off a bit. I used to sell thousands of them, but now I sell about 20 boxes over the whole of Easter.

“The MaltEaster Bunny is the biggest seller across both of my stores. It’s low margin, but we sell them at two for £1 and they fly out the door. Last year I sold 30 boxes in Christmas week.

“Shell eggs are a dying market for c-stores because supermarkets do them at prices we can’t match. Novelty and filled eggs need to be our focus.”

Dee Sedani, Londis, Derbyshire

“It delivers £5.9m sales during the Spring season alone, and is worth £21.3m annually as the number one children’s single chocolate product . The uplift in Kinder Surprise sales in Spring last year, was driven by the impulse channel, so retailers who merchandise at till point and on the fixture can expect to benefit from a similar boost, without the risk of stocking a seasonal product as Kinder Surprise continues to be a best seller once spring has sprung.”

Cadbury Creme Egg remains the best-selling Easter brand, despite sales of Easter filled singles having taken a dip in recent years. Creme Egg sales combined with the number two Easter brand Cadbury Mini Eggs make up 35% of all Easter SKU sales. In fact, their sales are bigger than the next 16 SKUs in the market combined, according to head of customer marketing Laurie Bilson.

This year Cadbury, which is now owned by Mondelēz International, is running ‘Gooless Eggs’ - a consumer promotion exclusive to the convenience channel . The nationwide competition sees one gooless Cadbury Creme Egg seeded into the convenience sector every day from January 1 until Easter Sunday. Every consumer who finds an egg will be entitled to a prize of up to £1,000.

POS kits featuring dumpbins, counter barrels, wobblers, shelf strips and posters will be available to help retailers market the activity.

The firm claims that Cadbury Creme Egg has nearly four times more spent on it than any other Easter brand and the product has a 61% share of self-eat in the total market. The egg will be promoted by TV, outdoor, and digital activity.

While filled singles sales are struggling, seasonal impulse sales have soared, up an unbelievable 452% since 2009, according to McQuade. However, he claims that independents are not taking full advantage. “The multiples sold £8.3m worth of filled eggs and £11.3m worth of seasonal impulse products last year, while the impulse sector sold £8.3m worth of filled eggs, but only £5m in seasonal impulse. The impulse sector is missing the seasonal impulse opportunity.”

Nestle has a farmyard full of foil-wrapped seasonal impulse self-eats. “50% of shoppers new to seasonal impulse bought into the Smarties Choc Chick, which is an incremental 230,000 households,” says McQuade. And the firm’s Aero Lamb is back for 2013, although it conceded that sales of last year’s mint variant were a little woolly. “The mint lamb didn’t perform as well as we wanted as it polarised Mums with children, so we’re making it milk chocolate again for 2013,” says McQuade. The Lamb has also received a new pack design for improved standout in-store.

New for 2013, the firm is adding a white chocolate treat to the mix in the form of the Milkybar Bunny (rrp 65p). ” As the only white chocolate seasonal impulse offering on the market this product brings a real point of difference to the category that is certain to capture shoppers’ attention,” says Walker. “Novelty products are absolutely key to a successful Easter 2013 season.”

Thorntons concurs that retailers need to include a strong range of novelties within their Easter displays. “As in 2011, filled eggs continue to decline whilst self-eat novelties grow as shoppers look for something different & inspiring,” says commercial director Phil Sargison.

The firm still has a hand in the filled eggs market with its Melts Egg, which it claims is the fastest growing single egg in the market, growing 34% ahead of last year. But Thorntons also offers alternatives to eggs with the 24g Bramble Bunny bar (rrp: 69p or two for £1), and Bramble bunny milk chocolate and Lenny the sheep white chocolate lollipops (rrp: 79p or two for £1).

Hancocks’ milk and white chocolate egg shaped lollies (rrp: 75p) could also help offer a point of difference. “Novel lollies are a strong seller during every seasonal occasion and these chocolate lollies would sit well alongside Hancock’s Easter Jelly Pops, which always attract good attention,” says Summerley. The firm is also launching a gift box presenting six foil-wrapped chocolate carrots, which accompanies similar boxed presentations of foil wrapped chocolate eggs and chicks - all priced at just £1.

Another self-eat novelty, which continues to tick all the boxes is Mars’ MaltEaster Bunny. The brand, which launched in 2009, is doubling its advertising run, and is set to be promoted on TV for eight weeks.

Also benefitting from the advertising investment are MaltEaster Mini Bunnies. Available in the convenience sector for the first time this year, each bag contains individually wrapped Mini Bunnies, which are aimed at sharing occasions.

Bitesize and sharing bags are a popular treat in the run-up to Easter, and an area that consumers are willing to spend on early in the season. Mini eggs are worth a massive £44.1m with sales up 17% since 2009, according to Nestlé. Containing no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives Milkybar and Smarties Mini Eggs (rrp £1) are a permissible option for kids.

And for adults, Thorntons Mini Melts Caramel Eggs make a tempting choice. The milk chocolate eggs feature a caramel centre and retail at £2.

Kraft Foods also boasts strong bitesize offerings with Cadbury Splats back for 2013, as well as 2012’s 195g Cadbury Mini Egg sharing bag. In total, Cadbury bitesize contributed £5.4m in value sales. Stephanie Sarantakos, brand manager for Creme Egg and Mini Eggs, notes that the home baking trend has helped boost sales, with 17% of Mini Egg purchasers using them in this way. “The revival and growth of baking at Easter has also seen these brands become popular as ingredients or decorations for baked goods, which is another reason why retailers should maintain stock levels throughout the season.”

New for 2013 will be £1 pricemarked packs of Cadbury Mini Eggs and Splats featuring egg-shaped price flashes. The firm says that the products are well suited to Big Night In occasions and as a treat to share with work colleagues.

Mini eggs make up part of Hancocks’ Easter portfolio too. 150g Net bags of milk chocolate foil-wrapped eggs are returning for 2013 (rrp: £1). Hancocks also stocks foil wrapped Easter eggs in a 3kg bag for bulk sales.

Overall, the firm is confident that retailers have a cracking Easter to look forward to, as long as they ensure they stock a strong range of Easter novelties. “Hancocks would anticipate decent sales for independents and convenience stores in the run up to Easter 2013,” says Summerley. “The market will remain tough, however, one advantage in recent years is that we all know what the supermarkets are generally getting up to with Easter confectionery and so we can plan to work around that to avoid any unpleasant price wars. The market should leave the supermarkets to scrap over the core range of branded eggs whilst the rest of the stores focus on the many other opportunities.”

Ones to watch

Egg them on

New for 2013 is the novel Cadbury-branded Egg ‘n’ Spoon. Bright purple egg boxes contain four foil-wrapped eggs which are filled with chocolate mousse. The products even come with their own spoons to minimise mess. Egg ‘n’ Spoon is designed to be eaten at family occasions, such as following a meal or during a family night in.

rrp: £3.99

tel: 08702 400 861

Hoppy Easter

Nestlé is branching into new territory with a white chocolate self-eat Easter treat. Children’s favourite Milkybar is taking on a new format as a foil-wrapped bunny. The firm has high hopes for the Milkybar Bunny given that it is the only white chocolate seasonal impulse offering on the market and plays to the novelty trend.

rrp: 65p

tel: 01904 604 604

Bitesize bunnies

After a hugely successful launch in the multiples last year, MaltEaster Mini Bunnies are now available in the convenience sector. Each bag features individually wrapped bunnies, which are well suited to sharing occasions throughout spring. Pos material is available to give the products increased standout.

rrp: £1.29

tel: 01844 262 517

No yolk

In a bid to help independents create a sense of excitement in the run-up to Easter, a ‘Gooless Eggs’ promotion will be running on Cadbury Creme Eggs. Exclusive to the convenience channel, the competition will see one gooless egg seeded into a c-store every day from January to Easter Sunday. Consumers who find the yolk-less eggs can win up to £1,000.

tel: 08702 400 861

It’s a stick up

With the secret to success in convenience being to create a point of difference from the multiples, novelty products are a strong Easter seller. Hancocks cash & carry has a range of unusual treats which are sure to capture consumers’ imaginations. Its Easter selection includes new milk and white chocolate egg-shaped lollies (rrp 75p) and Easter Jelly Pops (rrp 49p).

tel: 01509 216 644


Season’s eatings

While Easter remains the biggest spring occasion, it is important to make room for products relevant to the season, such as Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.

In addition to self-eats, retailers should start to develop a general gifting display soon after Christmas, suggests Hancocks Cash & Carry. “Shoppers need to understand what items they can buy from you, and developing a strong display will prompt them to understand this and be more likely to purchase when they get to that point,” says purchasing director Jonathan Summerley.

“A prominent gifting display can be developed throughout the spring to accommodate Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and then Easter. The most important thing when choosing your display is to steer clear of obvious supermarket products. Regular trips to the stores in your area should be an essential task.”

Hancocks stocks a wide range of Ducd’O Belgian chocolates suitable for spring gifting occasions. Made with 100% cocoa butter, the range retails at between £1 and £4.99, with products weighing from 50g to 1kg. A 200g box of dusted truffles retails at £3.49 and offers a margin of 49%.

Luxury chocolates are also available from Ferrero Rocher. Its Rocher five-pack (growing 40.7% last spring) and 16-pack (up 52.6% year on year) remain ever popular. New for 2013 is the Rocher Heart (rrp £4.49), a golden heart-shaped design targeted at Valentine’s and Mother’s Day.

“A multimillion pound annual campaign including TV advertising will run through the spring season for the first time since 2008, alongside special in store solutions to help independent retailers capitalise on the £1bn chocolate confectionery spring sales opportunity,” says Levi Boorer.

And for consumers looking for a more family-orientated option, Mars’ Celebrations may fit the bill. The twistwrap brand is now worth more than £78.3m and is available in a range of different formats.