You’ve probably been planning for months, but make sure you don’t miss a trick with our round-up of essentials for this key season. First up – breakfast

Consumers' love of indulgence over the festive season is certainly evident within breakfast goods, where naughty but nice features heavily. However, there is plenty of demand for breakfast staples, too.

They may be everyday, but Kellogg's sees sales of its cereals increase over Christmas. "Historic IRI data shows a definite increase in value sales of Kellogg's most popular products, such as Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies, in the two-week run up to the holiday," says communications manager Paul Wheeler.

That's the combined value of the tea, coffee, milk and bread categories in convenience in December, according to KantarWorldpanel, four weeks ending December 2009.
He puts this growth down to the fact that consumers are looking for quality over Christmas, and claims that the 'Mrs Bucket/Bouquet' need to impress guests also plays a part in consumers trading up. "The fact is people open their homes up to more visitors at Christmas and many shoppers see what they buy as an expression of who they are, or aspire to be," he says. "Do people really want a giant value pack of basic cereal on their breakfast table in front of the in-laws on Christmas morning? Probably not."

He adds that Christmas is very much about familiar brands, rather than newcomers. "Make sure you have the quality lines in from brands people know and trust," Wheeler advises retailers.

In a bid to meet consumer demand for quality, Kellogg's has launched a 'Best to You' campaign which highlights the brand's high standards. Packs of the firm's best-known cereals, such as Corn Flakes and Frosties, carry a 'Best to You' strapline and the firm has spent more than £500,000 on a four-week TV ad campaign which runs until mid-December.

Of course, a bowl of cereal needs milk, and given the extra required for numerous cups of tea, coffee and maybe even scrambled eggs, ensuring you have excellent milk availability is essential.

Wiseman Dairies is adding a little festive flair with an on-pack promotion that celebrates the cinema launch of Gulliver's Travels and offers consumers the chance to win a holiday.

Hand in hand with milk as a must-stock is bread. "Bread sales peak in the week before Christmas as this is a key staple product that families like to ensure they don't run out of, especially if they have visitors to stay," claims Hovis category manager Tom Gulliver.

Retailer’s view: Julie Sharpe 
"We tend to sell more breakfast goods leading up to Christmas. It's the usual products such as sausage, bacon and eggs. People either buy fresh from the chiller, or if they can't be bothered to cook then they buy them already prepared from our food-to-go counter. 

"We also offer multi-buys on croissants to encourage people to treat themselves. 

"We have tinsel and a Christmas tree up around the store. I think it helps to get people into the spirit of things, and hopefully encourages them to buy a bit more! 

"We aren't open on Christmas Day, but on Boxing Day the store is very busy; sausage sizzlers really sell fast! I expect part of the reason is that mums are having a bit of a rest after cooking on Christmas Day, and they make for a quick breakfast. 

"Some people buy enough to feed their families; others like to go on a morning walk and then sit in our food-to-go area and have something hot for breakfast." Julie Sharpe, Spar Sleaford, Lincolnshire
"As a share of total bread, sales of everyday white bread increase by about 5%, with premium white up 8% indicating that shoppers are looking to indulge in the best quality white bread at this time. Healthier breads sell less well, breads with bits in are static, and diet breads are hit hardest."

Warburtons advises that retailers "stock up all day, everyday, and ensure that the fixture includes top-selling brands such as Warburtons' 800g Toastie loaf and 800g White Medium Loaf."

The cold weather also plays a part in adding sales. Gulliver explains that during colder spells, consumers are looking for other products that can be toasted as well. "Hovis crumpets, English muffins, pancakes and teacakes all perform strongly in the winter months. These more impulse-driven products respond well to off-shelf promotions, with multi-buy type offers such as a 'two for' or 'three for' driving incremental purchases."

There's no better way for consumers to top off their crumpets and muffins than with a drizzle of something sweet, so toppings such as honey are also in demand. "We traditionally see a 25% uplift in volume over the Christmas week versus an average week in the year," claims Kirstie Jamieson, marketing manager for honey supplier Rowse.

Consumers make additional purchases to ensure they have a selection of spreads to cater for their friends and family's needs, as there is more time at Christmas for the family to sit down and have breakfast together, states Jamieson.

The company is hoping to cash in with a new range of Supahoneys, which blend Manuka and clear honey. The range is available in original and lemon flavours, with cranberry and ginger soon to follow.

Pastries are another big seller come Christmas time. Croissants and Danish pastries both show uplifts of about 25% in December, claims Country Choice marketing controller Stephen Clifford. "The increase is a combination of in-home and out-of-home consumption as people decide either to treat themselves at home, or when they are out and about shopping. We also see a rise in hot breakfast baps of 20% as a result of the increased number of shoppers treating themselves to a hot breakfast on the move."

Although food on the go is generally a 'for me' purchase, at Christmas you often find couples taking a day off work to shop together, or families having a day out, so it makes sense to offer multibuys as well as singles, states Clifford.

He also points out that prepacked multipacks can work well because people may wish to cater for family members who are staying overnight. "For example, our new Danish pastry Trellis Bars were launched with a recommendation to multipack in fours using our plastic tray. As well as encouraging increased sales, retailers can often get an extra day's shelf-life when bake-off cakes and pastry products are prepacked so it makes sense operationally."

In addition to the usual suspects, Country Choice has launched a number of extra breakfast products to help retailers take advantage of the seasonal increase in demand. Its lemon & blueberry Crown, raspberry croissant and apricot croissant are available to meet the needs of sweet-toothed shoppers. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Danish Trellis Bar is targeted at younger consumers. A new breakfast muffin with seeds and dried fruit, and a mince meat Danish pastry are also available.

Clifford adds: "While the economic downturn has certainly caused people to cut back, particularly on major expenditure items, there are still opportunities for affordable treats."