Sales of confectionery at Christmas really begin to rise in the eight weeks before Christmas Day, starting with a lift at Halloween and reaching a crescendo in the final week, but there's enough research out there to show that customers are browsing a long time before that.
Getting Christmas confectionery out straight after Halloween is a strategy that has been adopted by the multiples. Obviously, this isn't so easy for smaller retailers who face the problems of finding the space and the difference in their customers' shopping missions, but there's still lots of sales to be made by clever phasing and forward planning.
While last year proved a bit tricky in the impulse sector for some manufacturers and saw an 11.8% decline year on year (Masterfoods/ IRI 16 weeks ending December 30, 2006) in total confectionery, Christmas in the convenience sector still accounts for £139m (AC Nielsen/Kraft). So with plenty of new products, spruced up packaging and c-store-focused deals this year, there is no reason why, with a bit of time and effort, Christmas 2007 shouldn't be one to remember.
This year Cadbury Trebor Bassett (CTB) is showing its mischievous side with the introduction of Magical Elves into the novelty category. There are eight characters and packs retail at 20p, or there's a three for 50p promotion. CTB says retailers should be merchandising the elves by the till to encourage impulse purchasing. A website has also been launched to explain the story behind Santa's helpers, which will also appear on the backs of selection boxes and advent calendars.
Also new in novelty are the hollow Cadbury Milk Chocolate Snowman, rrp £1.99 or two for £3 promotion; and Cadbury Dairy Milk Chunks, which return to the milk bottle packaging design to promote the glass-and-a-half credentials.
To add excitement CTB is this year putting a 3D lenticular moving image on its large boxes, rrp £2.99. It's also put together the Winter Collection, aimed at females aged 13 to 25. The box features some of its best-selling bars and retails at £3.79.
Promotions are available on several of the packs, such as two for £6 on the Super Selection Box and the Winter Collection; two for £5 on the Lenticular Selection Box and the Stocking; and two for £4 on the medium Selection Box.
CTB has also revamped its Cadbury Dairy Milk Advent Calendars with different designs for boys and girls. As well as chocolate, a code will be revealed behind each door which, when cracked, can be used to access extras on the website.
Tins have become a bit of a contentious issue in c-stores given the multiples' insistence on discount deals. Last year, according to CTB figures, like many manufacturers it was hit by heavier trading on its 2.2kg tins. This year CTB has pared down its range from six tins to three and introduced a smaller 1.3kg pack for Cadbury Roses and 1kg tin for Cadbury Heroes. To create some theatre, a new tins floor unit in the shape of a Christmas tree is available two- or four-sided.
In cartons CTB is offering 33% extra free on Roses and 25% extra free on Heroes, highlighted on packs and exclusive to independents.
As part of Nestlé's Christmas offering it has completely revamped one of its best-known brands, Black Magic, to give it a more premium and up-to-date offering following consumer feedback which suggested the product was a bit outdated and tired.
The Black Magic Dark Collection (rrp £4.99) includes new recipes Hazelnut Praline, Simply Black Magic, Orange Zest, Amaretto Crunch, Smooth Dark Truffle and Mocha Truffle, all reflecting the packaging's geometric design. Also new to the Black Magic range is Dark Discovery, which includes six chocolates at £1.49, and Simply Black Magic Thins at £2.49. The range will be supported by a media push, its first communications support in 15 years, with a £1m spend including press, PR and sampling. Also undergoing an update is Dairy Box, with improved chocolate and 10 new chocolates.
In Quality Street Nestlé has added new flavours Toffee Deluxe and Milk Choc Block and improved the recipe for Strawberry Delight and Orange Creme sweets. In addition, the colours of the sweet wrappers have been enhanced to make it easier for consumers to find their favourites, and the brand is being backed by a £4.5m media campaign including TV throughout November and December. In Quality Street Selections, introduced last year, a new chocolate and nut variant is being launched containing a mix of sweets such as the Purple One, Green Triangle, Nutty Choc Chunk and Chocolate Whirl.
In after-dinner mints, the company is hoping to tap into the popularity of dark chocolate with After Eight 85% Dark (rrp £2.79), containing 85% cocoa solids for fans of very dark chocolate.
Another brand being given a seasonal twist is Heaven, which has now been extended to include the Heavenly Truffle Collection featuring premium chocolate truffles with the ingredients indicated on the actual chocolate. Retailing at £5.99, the brand will be supported by a media campaign targeting women's consumer titles.
The company has also introduced a new design for its selection boxes including the Milkybar White Winter Fun Pack (rrp 99p), the only white selection pack on the market; the Kids' Selection Box (rrp £2.29); and the Medium Selection Box (rrp £2.29). In tubes the company has brought all to a £1.39 price point, reducing the price of the chocolate varieties, and they are now all direct fill.
Hoping to drive growth in the £4m self-eat category, Mars Snackfood has for the first time in its history introduced a Christmas countline - Galaxy Mistletoe Kisses. The limited-edition bars mirror the Galaxy target audience of women aged 25 to 40 and feature three pieces of portionable chocolate filled with a mousse and caramel centre. They retail at 55p.
Mars Snackfood sees the bar as a perfect match for independents, with the price of a case coming in at less than £10 (24 in each outer) and with six and 12 counter units available. The chocolates are available to retailers now and will be backed up by a £1m TV ad spend from November, focusing on a fairytale theme. An in-store support package including prefilled displays and pos is also available.
The rest of the Mars Christmas range includes its core brands Celebrations and Maltesers, which will both benefit from a £2.5m combined marketing spend this year. Masterfoods says that more than half of Celebrations and two-fifths of Maltesers sales come from the Christmas period (Mintel).
Celebrations is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and will benefit from a £1.6m spend in the run up to Christmas, starting with a PR campaign this month. Maltesers boxes will benefit from a £2m spend over the Christmas run-up. The brand is also part of the revamped Maltesers & Friends Mega Selection Box which has a new sweet mix (rrp £2.99).
New in the traditional category is Mars Planets and M&M's Peanut tubes (rrp £2.99). Elsewhere, in branded gifts, comes Galaxy Irresistibly Yours containing a mixture of five Galaxy brands in a gold organza bag with a rrp of £3.99, aimed at teens to adults. Mars expects it to be most popular with women.
Much publicity has been given to the fact that Kraft's Terry's Chocolate Orange has dropped Dawn French from its advertising, but that's not the only change the brand has undergone. It now features a more modern look to appeal to a wider range of consumers. A limited-edition Chocolate Orange ball is being introduced - Chocolate Orange Dazzling Dark Mint (rrp £2.39) including dark chocolate made with peppermint oil. The brand will be supported with a media campaign starting this month which includes a £2.3m TV ad.
Kraft is also unveiling new festive sleeve designs which will run across the 400g range, including new Toblerone Fruit & Nut (rrp £3.79).
Lindt was one of companies that had a good year last year with its Gold Reindeer, available in 40g (rrp 99p) and 100g (rrp £2.29).
This year the company has introduced a Gold Reindeer and Lindor Bell Pack (rrp £2.99). Santa joins the Gold Reindeer on the Santa Sleigh (rrp £12.99). Also undergoing a spruce up is the Lindt Calendar (rrp £4.99) with chocolate treats including a mini Gold Reindeer behind the windows and game on the back.
In boxes Lindt has introduced a new dark orange flavour to its truffles, prices range from 99p to £5.79. In tree decorations the newly designed range has a rrp of £2.99.
Green & Blacks is another company offering npd with a new range of organic gift boxes including The Assortment, rrp £8.99, and two after-dinner selections: After Dinner Mint Chocolate Leaves and After Dinner Chocolate Squares, both rrp £5.99. For more informal occasions is The Miniature Bar Collection with 12 miniature bars, which was introduced last year and is now available with new packaging and a reduction in display size, rrp £5.99.
Bendicks Mayfair has improved its Mint Collection this year with a new pack showing the variety and provenance of the chocolates. Packs have been increased to 225g and include a new chocolate, Intense English Mint. The packs retail at £3.99.
Npd for this year continues with Bendicks Bittergingers, which combine a hot Chinese ginger extract and ginger pieces with a soft fondant and covered in dark chocolate. The Bittergingers are available in 200g boxes, rrp £2.99.
New in its Werthers range is a 250kg Kilner jar for both the butter candy and the toffees. The jar is resealable, comes with a removeable label and has a rrp of £5.49. Bendicks will be supporting its brands with consumer advertising from November.
Obviously, the big brands are key at Christmas, but according to Hancocks, independents need to look beyond the brands stocked in supermarkets. This year the cash and carry has gone a little left field in its marketing to emphasise this point. Under the banner 'Why Follow the Sheep?', depots will feature sheep of all shapes and sizes to encourage c-stores to stock products that differentiate themselves from the supermarkets.
The Hancocks Christmas selection is available now and prices start from 10p and run up to £14.99, including many exclusives not available to supermarkets.
In the novelty section is a large Christmas Bauble containing an assortment of nougat (rrp £9.99), plus a Christmas Lamp, also with nougat inside and which can be used with a tea light once the sweets have been eaten (rrp £5.99).
Aimed at girls, the Make up Mirror, rrp £2.99, contains a selection of sweets, while the Tool Box, containing assorted candy, will retail at £3.99. A range of £1 products has also been added.
Retailers can see the full collection at Hancocks' Christmas two-day extra-discount event on November 11 and 12.
With so much npd, redesigned product and targeted offers in the market this year, small retailers should be able to give the multiples a real run for their money.
New for Christmas 2007
Sweet Cred has two new Jackpot! Bags (rrp £1.99) including a Dinosaur pack containing three toy dinosaurs and an assortment of sweets and an activity card. The Safari packs contain jungle animals and four packs of jelly sweets. Also new is Bumper Car Buddies, an addition to the Moveables range (rrp £1.49) consisting of a moveable action toy attached to a tube of jelly beans which are free from artificial colours and flavourings.
Mr Lucky Bags has launched two new lines for this year; the Barbie Island Princess stocking and the Simpsons Christmas stocking, both with an RRP of £1.99. The rest of the Christmas range includes Santa's Surprise Gift Bag with a rrp of £1; Santa's Letter Gift Pack containing a letter from Santa and a door hanger plus activity items for £2.50; and Christmas Baubles for £1.
Bon Bon Buddies has included several children's favourite characters in its Christmas range, including a Homer Simpson biscuit barrel filled with cookies and coin banks featuring Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants and a Cyber man from Doctor Who.
Walkers Nonsuch has relaunched its traditional slab pack range including The Family Slab, Original Creamy Slab and Nutty Brazil Slab. New packaging has an old-fashioned style to reflect the brand's traditional values and shows managing director Ian Walker with two of his grandchildren.
Tangerine Confectionery is continuing its partnership with Anthon Berg and Remy Martin with its Anthon Berg Remy Martin Handmade Liqueur Fudge. The fudge has a rrp of £4.49 for 250g.
In selection boxes Cadbury research found that when purchasing 38% of consumers thought taste was important, almost the same as the contents and choice of chocolate bars (37%). The fact that the packaging was festive was important to 33% of people, and the reputation of the brand was important to 25% of people. When it came to value, 15% of shoppers said this was important and admitted to dividing the price of the product by the number of products to work out value for money.