Recent successes have come from bringing back old favourites like Wispa and the launch of Galaxy Bubbles, which bears a strong resemblance to an existing best-selling chocolate bar.
Galaxy Bubbles is by all accounts selling well, but the obvious comparisons with Aero have been made. However, Mars insists that its product is different in that it is "much smoother, creamier and more indulgent with a longer-lasting experience". Without actually mentioning names, Mars says Galaxy Bubbles does not disappear in the mouth as quickly as some other bubbly chocolate bars on the market.
Mars is marketing the bar as the perfect mid-afternoon treat and backing the launch with a £2m spend.
Haleem Sadiq, negotiator for confectionery products at the Bestway Group, reports that Galaxy Bubbles has got off to a flying start, helped by the fact it's backed up by heavyweight in-store activity.
He adds: "The Aero range also does well with Bestway and Batleys retail customers. I suppose, in the case of Aero and Galaxy Bubbles, the products are primarily aimed at female consumers who are attracted to the 'light' weight of the product, and who may feel guilty about eating 'fatty' snacks."
Specialist confectionery cash and carry Hancocks also reports that Galaxy Bubbles is selling well.
Nestlé is currently running a 33% extra-free promotion on Aero Bubbles packs. There has also been a £2.5m media campaign to support the brand.
Nestlé UK trade communications manager Graham Walker believes it will be money well spent. He says: "Media campaigns are proven to fuel sales. Last year's campaign resulted in Aero peppermint medium sales growing by 19% (IRI total market value sales four weeks ending March 28, 2009 vs same period in 2008)."
Cadbury Flake is hoping to bring back lapsed consumers with its latest promotion the chance to win a Benefit lipstick. There are one million lipsticks up for grabs and eye-catching promotional packs communicate this offer by featuring bright red lipstick kisses all over them.
A code on the inside of promotional packs can be entered online or by text and consumers will immediately be informed if they are a winner. To drive awareness of the Flake promotion in store, special lipstick-shaped POS material is available.
Cadbury trade communications manager Kate Harding comments: "We believe this on-pack promotion will give women who have lapsed from the category a great reason to buy, driving penetration and repeat purchase, benefiting all of our customers."
Over at Ferrero, the company says the Kinder Bueno brand is now worth £24m, with 180 bars sold in the UK every minute. Ferrero reports that Bueno White is also doing well, outperforming rival new products launched in the same period (Nielsen data).
"With a £10m support package planned for 2010, including an exciting media campaign, consumers will be looking for Kinder Bueno in stores," says Ferrero UK sales director Jason Sutherland.
One of the great continued success stories is that of Kit Kat aided, over the years, by the success of new formats (Chunky) and big promotions (Perfect Break). You can expect the success story to continue via a £25m spend behind the brand this year.
Nestlé's latest endeavour aims to cash in on the Football World Cup, taking the form of a Kit Kat Cross Your Fingers promotion its biggest for 2010. Promotional packs give consumers the chance to win £1,000 each day during the event.
The company says the £10m media support package is the largest ever spend for a consumer promotion. Activity features on Kit Kat four finger, Chunky and Chunky caramel.
Says Kit Kat brand manager Steve Hind: "People genuinely believe that they can make a difference to the football results. The phrase 'cross your fingers' is a recognisable phrase that will grip the nation."
Nestlé will launch teaser ads on April 26 and a 60-second TV ad with print and digital PR activity will run from May to July. There will also be outdoor press ads using billboards.
In addition, Kit Kat will be the sole advertiser on the iPhone Sky Sports mobile phone app. And Kit Kat will also have its own app where users can interact they can download a red or yellow card and add their own commentary to a football game.
Mars' World Cup activity will see Mars bars on sale in England sporting the red and white England strip as well as the famous Three Lions crest.
The big spend for Kit Kat's marketing began with the current Perfect Break promotion. Last year during the promotion Kit Kat sales increased by 19% (Nielsen). This year growth is expected to soar even higher as there's a break being offered in every pack.
There are 10 once-in-a-lifetime tailored break prizes worth £10,000 each where winners can choose their own Perfect Break. Runner-up prizes offer money off breaks at lastminute.com.
Nestlé UK trade communications manager Graham Walker says: "Our research shows competitions encourage lapsed users to re-engage with a brand and by building on the success of 2009's Perfect Break, we will attract even more consumers to Kit Kat with its instant win mechanic. What's more, research (IMI International) shows that good consumer promotions gain momentum with age. In the second year of a promotion the participation rate is expected to increase by 42%."
Hind adds: "We'll continue to engage people with our brand via promotions. We plan to increase loyalty by getting more brand ambassadors (people telling their friends about us). For retailers, multiple points of interruption (eg POS and dumpbins) go a long way to increasing sales."
Two big trends that continue to drive confectionery sales are sharing and the Big Night In.
Mars refers to its Maltesers, Minstrels, Revels and M&Ms brands as 'bitesize' products. The range has been selling exceptionally well, especially since it transferred into pouch packs. According to IRI data, over the past 10 years Mars' market share of the bitesize category has grown to 52.3%. Its Maltesers, Minstrels, Revels and M&Ms brands account for four out of the top five products in the category. And it's a category valued at £527m, showing growth of 11.1%.
Bep Sandhu, Mars Chocolate UK trade relations manager, explains: "One of the key reasons that the bitesize category continues to perform so well is the Big Night In trend. Consumers are opting to stay in and save money rather than going on the more traditional night out. Sharing confectionery such as Mars bitesize pouches are the ideal way to make the most of the Big Night In. Sharing chocolate is a key consumer trend with IRI research showing that 70% of chocolate consumption happens when we're with others."
Sandhu recognises that space is at a premium for convenience stores, but she reckons sharing products are excellent sales drivers and well worth finding space for. "Bitesize lines lend themselves well to secondary sitings away from the main fixture which create more points of interruption for confectionery shoppers. Fixtures such as our 'Slenda Glenda' are ideal for this: they don't take up much floor space and provide the ideal display solution for bitesize pouches, enabling retailers to take on a best-selling line they might not otherwise be able to carry."
However, retailers need to make space for two more bitesize lines new Galaxy Counters and Milky Way Magic Stars which are being made available in larger bags.
"We have seen strong growth in sales of sharing products," says Bestway's Sadiq. "Retailers should ideally create a Big Night In section and feature products such as pouches/block chocolates/take-home soft drinks to drive the message to consumers." And he expects the trend for sharing products to continue this year because of the World Cup this summer.
On pricing, Sadiq says net price promotions always work well, but adds: "We have seen an increase in multibuys used to drive volume and distribution. Recently manufacturers such as Mars have reduced their multibuy mechanics from 'buy 5 for a price' down to 'buy 2 or 3 for a price'. I would say that this is as a result of the recession, and it has been welcomed by retailers. I would always encourage retailers to execute promotions to drive footfall and impulse purchase, and to make use of promotional POS material available from your local cash and carry."
Hancocks purchasing director Jonathan Summerley adds that pricemarking, particularly on bars and slabs, is popular. "So long as the suppliers keep the prices realistic, this can be a competitive opportunity for smaller retailers and a value purchase in turn for their shoppers.
"Going forward, it is of utmost importance that the marked prices remain significantly low enough and a decent cash margin for retailer is maintained we have seen some suppliers try to push them up too much," says Summerley.
One might have thought that premium chocolate lines were suffering because of the recession, but that's not been the case at Green & Black's, where a new Milk & White Miniatures pack has just been launched.
Senior brand manager Natalie Brown explains: "The launch of the miniatures aims to capitalise on the UK consumers' love of milk chocolate and remind retailers and consumers of the strong range of milk chocolate products from Green & Black's, both in gifting and across the bar range."
Milk & White Miniatures comprises 12 milk and white 15g bars including creamy milk, which has delivered more than £2.9m worth of sales to date (Nielsen data) and has been the biggest premium bar launch of all time.
Green & Black's has seen year-on-year growth of 2.3% (Nielsen) in value, which Brown says reinforces the brand's role as a value driver within the premium chocolate category. "Retailers should take advantage of this opportunity and stock the core products: dark 70%; milk; maya gold; creamy milk; butterscotch; and white (all available in 100g and 35g sizes); and key gifting lines, such as the new Green & Black's Milk & White Miniatures.
"Retailers should allocate premium a share of space that reflects its share of sales about 15-20% using Green & Black's as the signpost for premium bars and gift boxes."
Meanwhile, despite the much talked about Kraft takeover of Cadbury, for the time being it's business as usual for both. However Kraft is stepping on Cadbury's toes with the launch Milka in a 45g bar.
The bars, which have a rrp of 49p, are available now in Alpine milk and Daim (Alpine milk chocolate with crunchy Daim pieces) varieties.
Steve Mounty, director of convenience and distributive at Kraft Foods UK, says: "Milka is already hugely popular as a tablet, and we hope that the countline will have as much appeal it will add something a bit different and special to the retailers' countline ranges."
Last year Milka, which is the number one chocolate brand in Europe, enjoyed huge sales success in the UK. According to Nielsen data, the 100g bars experienced 237% growth, taking the brand to a value of £8.3m and helping to push it into the UK's top 10 chocolate tablets.
Expect the sales growth to continue, because this year Milka will be backed by a £4.7m marketing spend including TV and online advertising.
The chocolate manufacturers all seem keen to show their caring sides. Cadbury Dairy Milk was the first major confectionery brand to achieve Fairtrade certification. As such Fairtrade Cadbury Dairy Milk has been on shelf in the UK and Ireland since July 2009 and 350 million Cadbury Dairy Milk bars will now carry the Fairtrade mark each year around the world. Cadbury says the move has quadrupled the amount of Fairtrade cocoa coming out of Ghana, compared with 2008, and will benefit more than 40,000 farmers. Cadbury celebrated Fairtrade Fornight by launching Fairtrade-certified CDM Buttons. CDM also released its first album, 'Big Swap Songs', as a free thank you to anyone who swapped to products with the Fairtrade mark.Consumers were able to download a free copy online by explaining what items they had swapped for those with the Fairtrade mark, or they were able to pick the CD up at a their local c-store. At Nestlé, the four-finger Kit Kat began carrying the Fairtrade mark in the UK and Ireland in January. The move follows Nestlé's global Cocoa Plan which represents a £65m investment over the next 10 years in programmes to address economic, social and environmental issues facing cocoa farming communities. Over at Mars, all Galaxy milk chocolate bars carry a Rainforest Alliance-certified seal in the UK and in Ireland. Mars has committed to certifying its entire cocoa supply as sustainably sourced by 2020.
Ask yourself whether the chocolates you stock add value every day if some don't, sell them through and then use the space for better performing lines Once your core range is in place and driving sales, with big brands well represented and multi-faced, you can add secondary confectionery sites to create further points of interruption and drive impulse sales Remember that chocolate sales can suffer when the weather heats up, so boost sales by utilising your fridge to encourage sales However good your stock, it's not going to sell unless it's displayed well. Make sure your display is eye-catching, tidy and in an area of high footfall, preferably tempting customers as they queue to pay. Source: Mars
"Confectionery is one of our biggest strengths. Students are constantly snacking so they buy a lot of chocolate. We have a main confectionery display plus we have it at each of our five checkouts to encourage impulse purchases. "Pricemarked confectionery is doing well and it's been priced so we're not losing out. We've recently had Cadbury and Mars pricemarked lines and seen a five-fold increase in sales on some products. "At the moment we have the new Galaxy Bubbles bar on offer at 'two for 80p' and that's selling well. "Dundee is a Fairtrade university and we sell a lot of Fairtrade products. We support Fairtrade Fortnight and highlighted Cadbury as part of that. I think it's great that a major supplier has launched a Fairtrade product as most of our Fairtrade lines come from secondary suppliers." John Cuberthson, Booker Premier, Dundee University
"We have noticed that although consumers are cutting back on many things, everyday 'treats' haven't suffered in the recession, and the bad winter has actually helped to increase short-term sales. The areas that are doing particularly well include large bars of chocolate, particularly those that are pricemarked because they demonstrate good value for money, and bags with resealable pouches. "In terms of what consumers are buying, Wispa is very successful and from what we have seen so far we expect Galaxy Bubbles to perform really well." Ian Irvine, product controller at Sugro