Self-eats and bitesize are your best bets for Easter, but don’t overlook premium shell eggs and chocolate alternatives. Sarah Britton reports

e don’t need to tell you that Cadbury Creme Eggs sell well over Easter. You’ve had them on your counters for weeks, alongside MaltEaster Bunnies and Smarties Choc Chicks. But with Easter drawing closer, there are TV ads galore, so you’ll need to be on the ball to ensure 100% availability.

“For convenience retailers to see sales success this spring, the number-one focus should remain immediate consumption, sales of which grew by 4% in the convenience channel last year,” says Nestlé trade communications manager Graham Walker. The firm’s Aero Lamb is back this year in peppermint form.

The MaltEaster Bunny is also bouncing back onto shelves. Having delivered sales of £9.38m last year, the bunnies will be on TV over the Easter period. “People need to be aware that there is an Easter range at their c-store, so self-eats need to be displayed clearly and visibly,” says Mars trade communications manager Bep Dhaliwal.

Cadbury Creme Egg is also getting TV exposure thanks to a multi-million pound marketing campaign to celebrate its Olympics sponsorship. The ads, which are supported by Facebook activity, will run until April 2. “It is a great way for fans to engage with Creme Egg season and be a part of the build-up to the London 2012 Games,” says Jill McCall, brand manager of the Creme Egg 2012 programme.

Another springtime treat gracing TV screens will be Lindt gold bunnies, with advertising set to run from March 19 to April 7.

Not wanting to miss out, Kinder Surprise is also advertising in the four weeks before Easter. It is introducing its latest toys plus a new consumer promotion, and hopes the ads will reach 76% of its target audience.

In addition to self-eat, the other big must-stock is bitesize. Mini eggs account for almost 30% of total Easter sales within the convenience channel, claims Nestlé. “Worth £9.4m and with sales growth of 17% last Easter, mini egg sales show no sign of slowing,” says Walker. Smarties and Milkybar Mini Eggs retail at £1 each.

Cadbury Mini Eggs, which remain the second most popular Easter product after Cadbury Creme Egg, will be on screens in March. And this year they are joined by Cadbury Creme Egg Splats, which are milk chocolate, shaped splats with a fondant filling.

Mars also boasts a new offering in the bitesize category with Galaxy Caramel Mini Eggs. The £1.19 packs contain eight individually wrapped eggs and are targeted at sharing and indulgent self-eat occasions.

And at the premium end of the mini eggs category come new Ferrero Eggs. Priced at £1.99, the 100g packs are available in hazelnut and cocoa variants and contain 10 individual foil-wrapped eggs.

Cracking shell eggs

It’s no secret that cracks have started to show in the shell eggs market in recent years. With the multiples championing deep discounts, shell eggs have undoubtedly been devalued and independents rarely get a look in. “Last year was tough for many convenience retailers, as the multiples heavily promoted shell eggs,” says Ferrero UK sales director Jason Sutherland. “Even though we’re likely to see more promotions in the multiples this year, there are plenty of opportunities for retailers to offer their customers something different during this key period.”

Confectionery cash and carry Hancocks agrees. “There is no escaping the fact that the supermarkets will attack the branded egg market on price in order to draw shoppers in,” says purchasing director Jonathan Summerley. “Few independent retailers will be able to compete with this and we would recommend almost all such retailers steer away from lower-priced and ‘teenage’ branded shell eggs.”

Ignoring shell eggs altogether is a mistake, though. “Easter eggs that offer added value to the consumer are seeing a strong 8% growth year on year,” says Walker. New for 2012, Nestlé’s Kit Kat Mug Egg (rrp £5.99) makes for a good gifting product. Another product that brings something a bit different to the table is its retro Yorkie Digger Egg. At £5.59, it’s not the cheapest option, but its eye-catching packaging may give you the edge over more generic offerings. The Smarties Hen House (rrp £4.99) also delivers more than just an egg. Its hen house-shaped pack gives children the chance to play, long after the chocolate has gone.

Cadbury also has some exciting shell eggs. The Olympics-themed Medal Egg includes a novelty gold milk chocolate medal with Cadbury indented on one side, and a Union Jack on the other. “As Olympics fever builds in the country, the novelty egg will attract a range of consumers,” says Kraft Foods trade communications manager Susan Nash.

And Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) Freddo soft toy shell eggs will this year be joined by a CDM Buttons egg containing a monkey toy. Kraft has also reworked the packaging to make the toy more prominent, so that consumers can see instantly this is not your average egg.

The Kinder Surprise Limited Edition Egg from Ferrero promises plenty of fun with a giant Kinder Surprise toy inside the 100g egg. In limited distribution last year, the product is now available to the wider convenience sector, rrp £4.99. And at a lower price point of £2.75, the Kinder Surprise Bunny also comes with a toy.

Ferrero has a novel treat for grown-ups with its bunny-shaped box of 13 Ferrero Rocher priced at £5.49. And for retailers looking to create a point of difference with some luxury lines, there’s the Ferrero Boxed Egg (rrp £10.99).

Mars also has a selection of premium offerings. New for 2012 is the Luxury M&Ms Egg (rrp £7.99), containing a 200g hollow chocolate milk egg with four standard bags of peanut M&Ms.

Beyond chocolate

While chocolate is obviously the big-hitter over Easter, it’s vital not to overlook the alternatives. “We are finding that Christmas purchasing is embracing both chocolate and sugar confectionery - the savvy retailer should look to do the same for the spring season in order to maximise his sales,” says Summerley.

Haribo couldn’t agree more. “The gums and jellies sector continues to drive growth within sugar confectionery and helps to meet consumer demand for choice and themed alternatives to chocolate,” says managing director Herwig Vennekens.

“While Easter eggs can be very bulky to display, smaller items such as themed bags of gums and jellies are easily stocked and displayed, helping retailers to stock products for longer at the same time this allows them the additional space to increase the range on display and offer the consumer more choice.”

The jelly giant has plenty of treats in store for Easter 2012 with the star of the show being Spring Time Friends. The mix of gums and jellies comes in animal shapes, including sheep, ducks and chicks, and are available in £1 pricemarked bags.

Bunny Mix will be available, too, offering a variety of bunny shaped foam and jelly sweets in two affordable pack formats - a 250g hanging bag and a 225g multi-bag (containing 10 mini bags).

And after their successful launch in 2011, the company will also offer Jelly Bunnies, Tangfast-chicks and Eggstras in 50g bags.

Vennekens concludes: “While many independent retailers don’t have the luxury of space, quality gums and jellies such as Haribo, which also offer great value, will help retailers to capitalise on seasonal sales for longer, while also offering strong sales margins compared with chocolate.”

And outside of confectionery, there are even more opportunities to prosper this spring. “Easter can be about more than just confectionery and we believe that retailers can maximise their sales within home baking during this key season,” says Dr Oetker marketing director Gill Davies. “Bakers are keen to push boundaries with modern recipes and exciting new decorations that mean cakes can be dressed to impress quickly 
and easily.”

Last year success came from edible decorations such as Wafer Daisies and Giant Chocolate Stars, as well as home-baking fixture block chocolate. Dr Oetker believes that sales have been influenced by its point of sale recipe cards, which give inspirational and fun baking suggestions, such as Cornflake Nests.

“Easter is a huge opportunity for home baking as more people are baking gifts for family and friends, rather than simply buying Easter Eggs,” says Davies. She claims that Easter is the second highest baking sales spike after Christmas, and believes it is set to go even higher with the current economic climate driving consumers to value the simple things in life more.

And for customers who aren’t so eager to don a pinny and hot foot it to the kitchen, there are some equally delightful ready-made baked goods for you to stock. This Easter, Image on Food is introducing a new vanilla biscuit base to its biscuit range. This will be available alongside its spring chick and the Easter display box.

Cakes are also an important category at Easter. Within Total Convenience, Easter cake sales grew 63%, driven primarily by Mr Kipling and Cadbury, claims Premier Foods. The company notes that Mr Kipling Orange & Lemon Fancies and Cadbury Lemon Mini Rolls achieved particularly strong sales last year. “Easter is becoming more of an occasion like Christmas, and consumers are willing to indulge or treat themselves during this time,” says senior brand manager for cake, Jo Agnew. “To ensure they are capitalising on this growth we recommend that retailers create features in their seasonal or cake aisle which will encourage new shoppers into the category.”

And another treat that deserves some shelf-space this spring is hot cross buns. “In the past three years we’ve seen on average a 25% year-on-year increase of hot cross bun sales and predict that results will be the strongest yet for Easter 2012,” says Bakestone managing director Howard Hunter.

The message for Easter 2012 clearly seems to be ‘think outside the egg box’. Dave Timothy, senior account director at branding and packaging design agency Anthem Worldwide, sums up the scene perfectly: “An everyday branded egg, in a standard box at a reduced price point, just won’t feel special or acceptable as a gift anymore. People want to play games, go on treasure hunts, and have fun that lasts way beyond the excitement of opening and devouring the egg.” •