Boxed chocolates come into their own at Christmas. Kate Miller looks at the new launches for 2005.

They may not be your biggest seller year round but a well presented boxed chocolate fixture could do more for your business than you think, especially at this time of year. At Christmas, boxed chocolates represent 75% of the total Christmas confectionery market and showed a strong growth of 9.8% in 2004 against 2003 (source: AC Nielsen. CSV/Masterfoods.) Within impulse, the market for seasoned boxed confectionery reached £123m (source: AC Nielsen Scantrack) in 2004.

The biggest category in the sector remains twist wrap at £170m, showing a 4% growth for the second year (source AC Nielsen. CSV/Masterfoods.)

The sector is so promising that companies better known for inlaid boxed are entering the field. For instance, Guylian is launching its first twist product this year, named, appropriately, Guylian Twists and targeted at a younger (15 -45) age group than the brand’s traditional products.

Guylian managing director Kevin Toms says he has high expectations for the launch: “This will be very positive for us this Christmas, and we’re launching into a new category so we shouldn’t steal from existing business.” Made up of six flavours, Guylian Twists retain the famous Guylian seahorse shape and are available in 200g 28-piece pack (rrp £2.99) and a 500g 72-piece pack (rrp £6.49). A £1m TV advertising campaign will run from November and in-store shelf wobblers and posters are available in the run-up to Christmas. The brand has undergone a redesign, replacing its traditional red ribbon motif with a brown version, and has introduced the tag line ‘Guylian - the world’s favourite Belgian chocolate’ to emphasise the fact that the range is now sold in 144 countries.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Bendicks is using its birthday to persuade consumers that there is more to the brand than mints with its female-targeted Gorgeous. “There is a perception of us just as a mint house,” says Bendicks trade marketing manager Andy Morris. “Launching non-mint products wasn’t a big decision. If we wanted to grow the brand this was the way to go.” The company has relaunched the brand with anew identity and is bringing all its products under the Bendicks brand. A TV advertising campaign will back the launch from November. For Christmas, a 340g seasonal pack is available (rrp £5.49).

One of the stalwarts of Christmas confectionery, Quality Street, is looking at both the past and the future with its new product development (NPD). At the same time as launching a Quality Street Retro pack, featuring old favourites such as gooseberry cream and toffee deluxe in a retro box (rrp £4.19 for 480g), Nestlé Rowntree has launched an update to the brand with Pizazz from Quality Street.

Pizazz chocolates come in flavours such as cookies and cream and banoffi and aim to give the twist wrap category a new lease of life, according to the company. Aimed at gifting, the chocolates have a higher price tag of £3.99 for 200g and £6.99 for 400g.

Other Christmas favourites, this time from Cadburys, will be getting a Christmas boost with ‘extra fill free’ for the impulse channel carried on easy-peel stickers to spare the blushes of the buyer. Consumers who buy Roses 500g cartons will get 33% extra free and 25% extra free on a Heroes 480g carton.

More changes to twist top comes from Masterfoods, which has introduced new twist top packaging to its best-selling carton Celebrations for greater shelf standout.

Retailers can also benefit from a small store format display available to c-stores. The brand is being supported by an advertising campaign running from the end of October until Christmas.

Away from twist wrap, the move to premium continues with growth in the more formal box inlaid category. Last Christmas the category was up by 30.5% value and 11% volume at £110.9m, adding a whopping £13.6m to the category (AC Nielsen Scantrack 16 w/e 25/12/04/Bendicks).

This year fingers are crossed that another batch of NPD will further drive Christmas sales. Bendicks couples its twist wrap non-mint launch with Chocolate Confections, a formal box containing an assortment of hand finished milk, dark and white chocolates available from September to December in 205g packs x5 (rrp £6.99).
The chocolates are merchandised in a rigid carton to protect the products, with a ‘flexback’ display outer. They have a shelf life of six months.

New this year from Elizabeth Shaw is a Fine Chocolates box selection with two variants; Champagne Truffles in 140g packs and Assorted Liqueur Truffles in 240g packs, retailing at £3.99 and £6.99 respectively.

The Brits’ growing love of dark chocolate sees another premium launch from Lindt. Swiss Tradition De Luxe Dark Collection has a high cocoa content and pralines. The chocolates are available in a 248g box with an rrp of £8.49.

Green & Blacks has also revamped its Dark Collection to include Cherry Truffles. The box retails at the high end of the category at £14.99.

As well as NPD, this year sees a revamp of Kraft’s Terry’s All Gold packaging to make it more appealing as a gift with a new gold jewellery box design. Both variants feature a gold background, with blue detailing for milk chocolates and red for dark. The assortment has also changed, with white chocolate variety in the milk assortment and coffee chocolate in the dark. The key focus for independents will be the 225g size now available in packs of six rather than 12s.

Kraft channel and communications manager Sarah Petts says the introduction of new sleeves last year worked well, sparking further changes. She says: “Customers are always open to trying new things. Gearing up to move to premium offerings, they want to indulge in nice bits and pieces.”

Hoping to cash in on consumers’ need for indulgence is A Taste of Switzerland with its Swiss Delice, which is taking its first steps into the convenience sector this year. The company makes premium confectionery and biscuits and sees an opportunity in c-stores for its products.

“We realise the independents are a huge opportunity but it’s a slow process and you have to offer something special,” says Petts. The company is targeting the Christmas season with Mountain Pralines, a combination of white and milk chocolate shaped like mountain peaks retailing at £4.99 for 190g.

Away from the more formal boxed, Nestlé Rowntree continues its NPD with After Eight Mini Straws, a more informal gift designed to attract younger consumers who enjoy more relaxed social occasions (rrp £2.49 for 113g). The launch is backed by a £1.5m media spend.
The company has also launched a solution for smaller retailers having problems merchandising the category. The company’s boxed chocolate composite outer contains three each of Quality Street, After Eight, Pizazz, After Eight Straws, Matchmakers Mint and Dairy Box plus three free Milky Bar Christmas Selection packs for £34.99 with a retail stock value of £54.40.

For Maltesers, Masterfoods is running a ‘win a car’ promotion for retailers in 150 cash and carrys through to October. The brand will also benefit from £3m support during the Christmas period.

The good news for retailers is that the nature of chocolates as a treat or gift purchase means customers are willing to pay more. The bad news is that much of the category’s retail success relies on being properly merchandised.

“Boxed can be an important category,” says Bendicks’ Morris, “but you have to understand that for consumers it’s not a core destination driver. Get it wrong and it won’t sell.”

The key to success is visibility. Too often, say the manufacturers, retailers hide boxed chocolates in out-of-reach places, missing the need of consumers to examine products they intend to give as gifts.

“Boxed chocolates tend to be a more planned purchase, so it’s important when customers don’t know what they want, to site it where they can read the boxes,” says Guylian’s Toms. “You need to put them in an area where you can make a considered purchase.”
Morris suggests that there are cross merchandising opportunities with the category, with wine and cards working well. “Opportunities are underused by retailers,”he says.

When it comes to ranging, retailers should note that while it’s the top brands which will drive sales, customers also want choice.

Morris says retailers who are not sure whether to stock a premium range alongside standard and twist wrap could do worse than look at the newspapers customers are buying: “A lot of retailers sell newspapers and miss the fact that this is a good indication of what else customers will buy. It’s one of the best indications of social class.

“It’s a good indication that premium boxed won’t sell if you sell newspapers but you can’t sell a copy of The Times or Telegraph.”

Far from being a problem category, boxed chocolates could mean Christmas 2005 will mean profits are all wrapped up.

According to Mintel’s Boxed Chocolate report in December 2004, the declining number of children and rise of one-person households could spell an opportunity for the smaller pack of boxed chocolates to satisfy the need for personal treats. Mini boxes not only help sales of their bigger counterparts by encouraging trialling, they also work as gifts in themselves. New for 2005:

Bendicks Gorgeous available in a 30g trial pack. Rrp 69p.

CadburY’s launch of two of its successful ranges in mini box sizes: Roses Luxury Collection 65g mini box and Cadbury Roses 80g mini carton. Rrp for both 99p.

Guylian Twists available in a 43g six-piece pack. Rrp 99p.

Lindt Swiss Tradition De Luxe available in a sample size. Rrp £1.99

Elizabeth Shaw mini box impulse lines including Fine Chocolate Mint Supreme and Soft Caramel. Rrp 99p.

Celebrations mini box containing one of each sweet. Rrp 99p.

Nestle’s mini gift format for Baci, Quality Street and Diary Box (rrp 99p) and an After Eight impulse line (rrp 49p).