Meanwhile, at Masterfoods, the Galaxy range has been enjoying some excellent sales growth. Block sales were up 17% year on year in 2005, while Minstrels and Ripple sales were up 16% and 12% respectively. Indeed, Masterfoods claims that the continued growth of the Galaxy range has driven overall block market sales by 3.3%.
Much of Galaxy's success is down to last year's launch of Promises, the brand that aims to bridge the gap between the everyday and luxury block chocolate markets.
The spotlight will still be on Galaxy this year as Masterfoods increases its investment in the brand from £12m to £15m.
The company has also had great success with its bitesize range since repackaging the products in pouches which are easier to open, stand upright and can be resealed.
In a nod to the healthy eating brigade, the Snickers and Mars Big Ones bars have been replaced by Snickers and Mars Duos. These are packs containing two pieces of chocolate which, Masterfoods says, consumers can eat themselves, share with a friend, or save one for later. And its traditional two-piece, Twix, has its Kingsize version renamed Twix Xtra while the Bounty bar is available in a Trio format.
Over at Nestlé Rowntree, Aero has been selling well. Its successful sales strategy has included capitalising on the existing brand by improving its quality and value for money, as well as introducing new products to fit with growing consumer trends. So Aero got a new, creamier recipe and packaging design plus the size of the blocks was increased to 150g.
small is beautiful
Nestlé Rowntree also launched Aero Bubbles into the bitesize category. Graham Walker, Nestlé Rowntree sales communications manager, explains: "This strategy proved such a success that Aero sales increased by a massive 33%, making it the fastest growing top 20 confectionery brand and the fastest growing top 100 grocery brand in 2005. What's more, bitesize Aero Bubbles was the most successful confectionery launch of last year, propelling Aero into the position of number four chocolate impulse brand."
Also contributing to Aero's success was the popularity of the new Caramel variant, launched at the end of 2004, which added more than £7.5m to the confectionery category in 2005.
But the Aero activity didn't stop there. In February new Aero Chocolate Truffle joined Aero Caramel to create a new indulgent confectionery range.
Nestlé hasn't forgottoen Kit Kat, either. The countline is currently supported by the hugely popular Kit Kash promotion for the second year running. And KitKat Chunky has been redesigned to make it more appealing to young men. There is also a new peanut variety available.
It seems the 'big three' manufacturers are sticking to what they know best - extending their existing best-sellers into new flavours, shapes and sizes. Critics may accuse them of playing safe but it's a formula that works for them, their customers and their consumers.