Now is the time to start preparing for Easter 2012. Get cracking and put your impulse products out at the nearest opportunity, says Sarah Britton

You’d be mad as a March Hare to wait until the month before Easter to start displaying your seasonal produce. Consumers might feel they’ve over-indulged over Christmas, but once they see the latest Easter npd from their favourite confectionery brands, the new year’s diet will be nothing but a distant memory. So as soon as the tinsel comes down, jump to it and get Easter on show.

Timing will play a vital role in ensuring you have a cracking Easter, agrees Nestlé. “It’s critical to get off to a fast start because this Easter period is two weeks shorter than 2011. It’s a case of one season ends and another begins,” says Easter category manager Sarah Rodgers. She claims that Easter Immediate Consumption (EIC), such as self-eat and bitesize products, can be something of a goldmine for savvy retailers. “Some 80% of early sales are EIC,” says Rodgers. She states that EIC sales grew 4.1% in the impulse sector in Easter 2011 versus the year before.

“Consumers need to be aware that there is an Easter range at their c-store, so self-eats need to be displayed clearly and visibly,” adds Mars Chocolate UK’s trade relations manager Bep Dhaliwal. “Some retailers think: ‘Easter isn’t until April. I don’t need to worry about that yet’. But it’s about having the right range of bestsellers prominently displayed at till points as early as possible. From what we’re seeing, self-eat sales are incremental to confectionery.”

It’s never too early, agrees Hancocks Cash & Carry. “We now stock a variety of self-eat spring confectionery products from December, which to many would seem utterly ridiculous,” says purchasing director Jonathan Summerley. “But the demand is there early in the season to warrant the stock. Creme Eggs will be in demand from January and inevitably plenty of marketing activity will kick in around the key brands at this time, too. Stocking the key players allows for impulsive, incremental sales that will be welcomed by the till. Furthermore, small self-eat products are repeat purchased throughout the season,” he says.

Kraft concurs that getting self-eat and bitesize products out on shelf as soon as possible will be extremely valuable. “Retailers need to have Creme Egg on the counter from Boxing Day - it signposts Easter,” says Jodie Bates, senior brand manager Easter & events at Kraft Foods. “If there’s room in store, then other novelty products such as caramel eggs, bunnies and mini eggs should all be on display.”

Creme Eggs remained the number-one Easter self-eat last year and despite spooky doppelgänger Screme Egg having only just left shelves in November, Kraft is confident that the Creme Egg will be as popular as ever when it arrives in-store for Easter 2012. “Cadbury Creme Egg Twisted bars are out all year round, and last year’s Creme Egg sales were still strong, so we don’t think the Screme Egg will impact Creme Egg sales,” says Bates.

In fact, Cadbury is so confident that consumers can’t get enough of Creme Egg that the company is expanding the brand into the sharing market with Cadbury Creme Egg Splats. The bitesize packs of milk chocolate splat shapes feature the familiar fondant, but have a smaller goo to chocolate ratio than the eggs as consumer research showed that some people found the latter too sweet.

Bitesize is the fastest growing chocolate category, states Cadbury, and it has every intention of taking advantage. In addition to launching Splats, Cadbury will be supporting its other bitesize hero Mini Eggs, which grew in total sales by 11.2% in 2011. Mini Eggs will be back on TV screens in March for the first time since the 1990s.

The company is also introducing a new Mini Eggs pack size this Easter, to maximise the growth of the bitesize category. The new stand-up 195g bag is suited to Big Night In consumption, or a treat to share with work friends.

The 45g self-eat Cadbury Mini Egg tube is also undergoing a change this year, as Cadbury is making the product more suitable as an everyday treat. The new pack is a square format with a re-sealable lid, making it useful for a portion-controlled, personal treat.

The growth of bitesize has also been picked up on by Ferrero, which is launching new Ferrero Eggs. These are a premium token gifting line targeting the top end of the mini eggs category. Available in hazelnut and cocoa flavours, Ferrero Eggs are priced at £1.99 and each 100g pack contains 10 individual foil-wrapped eggs.

The product will be launched to the independent trade via wholesale in January.

Mars is following suit with Galaxy Caramel Mini Eggs. “The sharing trend looks set to continue and even grow, and with this in mind Galaxy Caramel filled eggs are being introduced in a mini format for Easter 2012,” says Dhaliwal. “Each pack contains eight individually wrapped eggs with smooth chocolate caramel centres, ideal for sharing with friends and family, or as an indulgent self-eat.”

It is also launching Galaxy Bubbles filled egg. The filled egg with a bubbly centre builds on the success of the bar format, which hit shelves in February 2010. “The Galaxy Bubbles filled egg will be great as it’s adding something new to the mix,” says Dhaliwal. “Galaxy is a 50/50 brand in terms of male/female consumers, so the Bubbles egg will appeal to both sexes, although it will probably have a female bias because it’s a light eat.”

But while eggs are clearly still big business, it’s important to remember that other novelty shapes now play a key role in seasonal self-eat. “Easter self-eat used to be dominated by different eggs,” says Dhaliwal. “Now, people enjoy the novelty side of it with different shaped chocolates.”

One product that will be hopping off shelves is the MaltEaster Bunny. Now worth £9.6m, the Bunny will be available for a third year, and Dhaliwal advises displaying it at the tillpoint. “People have a sense of anticipation, waiting for the Bunnies to be available again, so displaying them on the counter is very important,” she says.

Hancocks agrees that there is more to self-eat than eggs alone. “Filled eggs can form just one part of the Easter novelty category and we firmly believe that the key products will continue to sell extremely well, supported by large marketing campaigns. Easter novelties must also include confectionery such as shaped chocolate figures and other fun formats,” says Summerley.

The company will be stocking own label assorted Bunny and Easter Treats priced at £1 for 100g, a 150g Hollow Easter Bunny (rrp £1), and Easter Stacker Pops, priced at 75p. Says Summerley: “The benefit for a smaller retailer is that they are not locked into holding large stocks for any of these products. Instead, they can try an initial range and then evolve it as they want to try something new or replace the slower sellers. Such flexibility can be a great strength where Easter is concerned.”

The focus is very much on novelty shapes over at camp Nestlé. “People always assume that immediate consumption is about filled eggs, but the exciting area is novelty,” says trade communications manager Graham Walker. “We’d never suggest that retailers don’t stock Creme Eggs - it’s synonymous with retail and Easter. But they need to look at the space they’re giving to filled eggs.”

Last Easter Nestle’s milk chocolate Aero Luvabubble Lamb had consumers flocking to retailers, generating £2.7m-worth of sales. Eager to recreate the magic for 2012, it is bringing back the woolly wonders, but with a peppermint twist. The firm has high hopes for new Aero Mint Lamb (rrp 65p), which is available in smaller outers than the 2011 lamb, making it suitable for countertops. “In the Aero portfolio, mint is the key product,” says Rodgers. “It exceeds milk by 40%.”

And for consumers who aren’t mad for mint, Nestlé has another new product that may appeal. Smarties Little Choc Chick is a milk chocolate foil-wrapped treat filled with mini Smarties (rrp 65p). “Innovation is becoming increasingly important,” says Rodgers. “Normally, NPD accounts for 3% of sales in 2011 it was 9%. Last year 29% of our range was completely new. For 2012, 40% will be new.”

Walker has every confidence that with the right approach, independents can crack Easter. “Retailers we’ve spoken to are very positive about the Easter season, but the main message is the importance of having the right packs at the right time. They know multiples will get on with promotions, but we know what we can do well is sell EIC. That’s how convenience retailers can win.”■


Galaxy Caramel filled eggs are going mini. The £1.19 rrp packs contain eight individually wrapped eggs, which will appeal to both the sharing market and those looking for an indulgent self-eat. Also new from Mars Chocolate UK is the new Galaxy Bubbles Filled Egg, priced at 44p, which is perfect for consumers looking for a lighter treat.

tel: 01844 262 517

Retailers are being urged to stock up on a new offering from Kraft’s Cadbury Creme Egg brand. Milk chocolate Cadbury Creme Egg splats are filled with the familiar goo, but the ratio of fondant is slightly less than in an egg in order to give the product broader appeal. The 165g bags are suited to sharing occasions.

rrp: £1.99

tel: 08702 400 861
rrp: 65p

tel: 01904 604 604 Nestlé’s Aero Lamb is back for Easter 2012, but this time the milk chocolate bubbly centre has been replaced with peppermint, which is the most popular Aero bar flavour. Nestlé claims that 99% of Aero Lamb sales were incremental to Aero sales. The firm is also giving its Smarties mini eggs (rrp £1) a pack refresh for 2012.

rrp: 65p

tel: 01904 604 604 Premium chocolate consumers may well be egged on by Ferrero’s latest offering. The firm is tapping into the growing bitesize market for Easter 2012, with Ferrero Eggs. The foil-wrapped gifting eggs come in hazelnut and cocoa flavours. The product will be available via wholesalers from January.

rrp: £1.99

tel: 01923 690 300