Mars Chocolate UK is launching Sweet Nights In, which incorporates five out of the nationís top 10 chocolate brands, as a new on-pack promotion which will offer consumers money off their latest in-home entertainment through Google Play.
Such is our love of chocolate that any changes to favourite brands make headline news. Remember the chocolate recipe change in Creme Eggs? Or the less triangular bars of Toblerone? Last month the newspapers (and websites) were full of stories about how chocolate manufacturers were going to make their bars smaller in a bid to meet new targets on sugar.
The one good thing about sugar confectionery with regard to the whole sugar debate is that consumers know what they're getting. Unlike some soft drinks or so-called healthy cereal bars, the sugar in confectionery is not hidden away it's there right in front of you and to eat it or not is up to the consumer. And eat it they do as, according to Mintel, despite the negative attention attracted by sugar, 42% of consumers said the healthiness of sweets does not concern them, echoing the majority view that it's fine to eat sugary food as an occasional treat. The research firm found that four in five (79%) people ate sweets last year, the same number as 2014. And women, 16-24-year olds, parents and larger households show above-average consumption.
The media's attention on sugar and how bad it is for you could be viewed as a nightmare for the chocolate market but, according to Mintel, only a minority of consumers are limiting their intake because of its sugar content.
Some of your customers might groan at the sight of Easter eggs out so soon after Christmas, but it seems getting your Easter range out early is key to more sales. Indeed according to Kantar Worldpanel data, last year 8.3 million households bought Easter confectionery early in the season and 80% of them went on to buy it again later on. Retailers are therefore advised to stock up on Easter impulse lines now, but they need to remember that 50% of all sales are still made later in the season, highlighting the importance of availability right up to Easter Sunday.
There's much debate about the sugar in our diets in the mass media yet still UK consumers are 'sweet' on sweets and those consumers are not just kids. Indeed, according to Mintel's latest Sugar and Gum Confectionery report, four out of five adults had eaten sweets in the six months to September 2014. The research firm found that under-25s were the core users, with 86% of 16- to 24-year olds having eaten sweets in this period, with 71% of those eating them at least once a week.
You might think that chocolate sells itself but according to Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager, at Mars Chocolate UK, there's more you can do to help increase sales. "It's a mature category that delivers good returns but you can help increase your shoppers' basket spend," she says. Dhaliwal believes good category merchandising coupled with product availability can tempt shoppers to pick up more chocolate.
Seasonal impulse confectionery should be the key focus for convenience retailers at Christmas. Nestlé UK & Ireland spokesperson, James Maxton, explains: "With 66% of sales incremental to all-year-round singles confectionery, it is the novelty of these products that attracts shoppers. They also act as a signpost for the Christmas season in store and therefore visibility, especially in the early part of the season, is key to maximising sales." Last year, according to Kantar World Panel data, three million extra shoppers bought into seasonal impulse, resulting in 20% value growth for the category. Shoppers also bought more packs (up 10.2%), more frequently (up 8.5%) and spent more money (up 3.6% per pack).
The warmer weather is generally good news for sugar confectionery as consumers swap melt-prone chocolate for sweets. And one brand that performs particularly well in forecourts is Haribo, whose Starmix, Tangfastics and Super Mix continue to be the brand's best sellers, worth over £3.9m within forecourts alone (IRI data).
Haribo marketing manager, Katy Clark, says: "Starmix and Tangfastics are also positioned as the sector's top-selling hanging bags, a format that's perfect for sharing and ideal for journeys."
She says sweets have universal appeal: "Mintel data states that almost nine in 10 UK adults have eaten sweets in the past six months, that's 47 million consumers (IRI). Importantly consumers that enjoy sweet treats also enjoy variety, so stocking an extensive range meets consumer demand and creates strong sales opportunities within forecourts."
Sour continues to be a key trend within the market. Clark says that last year sales of Tangfastics soared and continue to sell well, with the latest IRI data showing year-on-year growth of 13%. And it looks like there are more sales in sight via a new line.
During the summer Haribo is extending its winning Tangfastics formula into the marshmallows category with the launch of Tangfastics Chamallows a mallow with a Tangfastics coating that delivers a 'burst of tangy flavour'.
According to IRI, the original Chamallows line is already a best seller within forecourts.
Meanwhile, Haribo is known for its continued brand support. This year it is spending its largest investment to date and as such its TV advertising is expected to be seen over 824 million times. There will also be radio, cinema and video-on- demand advertising.
The company started the year with a new creative for Starmix, which focuses on dramatising the child-like enthusiasm people have for the products. Clark says this has been a great success with positive feedback from consumers.
Haribo's Big Bag Tour will also return this summer, where over one million products will be sampled and consumers will be invited to 'explore the mix' and experience what it is like to step inside the brand's top selling treats: Starmix, Tangfastics and Super Mix.
Two absolute must-stocks for forecourts are Skittles and Starburst. That's because, according to Nielsen data, Skittles is one of the fastest-growing major fruit confectionery brands, worth £38m and delivering growth of 15% year-on-year which is three times faster than the total category.
A pack of Skittles is sold every second in the UK, and on a daily basis, over 11.2m Skittles are eaten. As a result, two of the top five best-selling singles fruit SKUs in independent and symbol stores are Skittles.
Meanwhile, Starburst is worth £23m. Almost a quarter of a million Starburst chews are eaten every day, with Starburst original the fifth biggest single countline in independents.
Over at Mondelez International, sugar bags are worth more than £109.5m and growing at 3.8% (Nielsen), with brand favourites including Maynards and Bassetts. The company's trade communication manager, Susan Nash, says retailers should take advantage of innovation in the marketplace, especially from market leaders such as Mondelez who invest in research, development, technology and marketing.
The firm's latest innovation comes from Maynards. New Discovery Patch Animals are fruit-flavour jelly and foam sweets. Every pack features an interactive world map with fun facts. There is also an app that goes with the sweets.
Supported by a UK media investment of £3m this year including TV, out of home (close to stores), digital and in-store activity, Mondelez says the launch of Discovery Patch Animals aims to attract new families to the category.
The Fruittella range from Perfetti Van Melle (PVM) has grown and diversified over the years but in terms of countlines, the original strawberry stick is still the best seller. But consumers do like new things. Fruittella Magics is a case in point. This is a sweet that changes flavour as you chew it, going from orange to strawberry or raspberry to lemon, and PVM says it has had a significant impact on sales since launch.
Mixing up flavours is definitely a growing trend as the latest Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles launch Froosions has two flavours in one sweet.
Available in both a single tube (rrp 51p) and a sharing bag (rrp £1.29), the sweets combine two flavours together, such as blackcurrant & apple, lemon & lime and pineapple & orange.
Nestlé UK and Ireland senior corporate communications manager, James Maxton, says: "New Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles Froosions are certain to boost confectionery category sales as a result of additional consumer excitement and interest driven by innovation from a much loved brand. Retailers looking to maximise sales should display Froosions off-shelf at launch so shoppers cannot miss it, as well as siting next to Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles on the main confectionery fixture for long term sales."
The key Fruittella launch for this summer is Fruit Letters, where outer wrappers of Fruittella sticks are rebranded with the 'Fruit Letters' logo and the individual chew wrappers each have a letter of the alphabet printed on them. This playful product allows consumers to make their own words and phrases either by themselves or with friends. The Fruittella Fruit Letters activity will run across all single stick pack flavours and multipacks, and will be supported by media activity.
Elsewhere, PVM is focusing on the pocket money opportunity for independent forecourt and convenience retailers within sugar confectionery. There will be particular emphasis on the Chupa Chups range and the variety that it gives to retailers, enabling them to offer multi-buy promotions to their customers and replicate deals that have been proven to work very well in the multiple sector. The company says products such as new Chupa Chups Shootz, Melody Pops, XXL Lollipops, Crazy Dips, Babol Tutti Frutti and Cotton Candy, all with recommended retail prices between 33p and 40p, can be combined in multi-buy promotions of '2 for 50p'. Chupa Chups is also catering for the lower-priced end of the market with the launch of Chupa Chups Stix individually wrapped cherry sweets with a soft centre filling that retail at 10p.
Adrian Hipkiss, brand marketing manager at Candyland, reports that nostalgic, traditional confectionery has seen a revival within the market as consumers look to enjoy products from days gone by. "Our range of iconic lines, including Sherbet Fountain, Dip Dabs, Refreshers, Black Jacks, Fruit Salads and Wham Assorted Minis, all sell extremely well," he says.
"It's an incredibly nostalgic market and transports consumers back to their youth as they look to indulge in flavours of years gone by." He says they also provide parents with the reassurance of a tried and trusted product.
Hipkiss believes good visual merchandising is key to supporting confectionery sales. "Impulse lines should be positioned in a prime location with items clearly visible and attractively displayed.
A Candyland pos solution is available to help with colour blocking and dressing the shelving area, which allows all the products to be displayed together and to stand out.
"Consumer first impressions are formed within a short time frame, and retailers boasting strong visual merchandising are able to communicate latest trends, while assisting shoppers in making a buying decision and create an exciting and enticing buying environment."
Candyland brand owner Tangerine has recently reinvented a selection of confectionery classics to make them relevant to today's consumer.
The Candyland Wham products have demonstrated strong growth in the market (a 7.5% year-on-year increase) and to take advantage of the popularity of chew products, the original Wham bars have been reinvented into an easier-to-consume format.
The new Candyland Wham Cosmic Chews are individually wrapped in a stick format (36g, rrp 39p) and are packed with the tongue-tingling Wham crystals as featured in the original bars.
"We have also taken top performing kids' singles line, Dip Dab (worth £3m in the total market), and combined it with the classic Refresher product (worth £2.2m in the total market) to bring a new, reinvigorated sherbet product to the market with a completely new flavour twist," says Hipkiss.
The result is the Refreshers Dip Dab, which features a raspberry flavoured sherbet with a lemon, lime, orange and raspberry fizzy lollipop all flavours originally found in the traditional Refresher sweets.
But there are new products too in the form of soft gums. "After conducting consumer research and identifying a demand for traditional, sweet shop-style products, the new soft gums were developed using popular, iconic hard boiled sweet flavours: Pear Drops, Rhubarb & Custards and Kola Kubes," explains Hipkiss.
They are available in two pack sizes, a 160g sharing pack (rrp £1.39) and 70g impulse bags (rrp 65p). The 70g bags will be added to the existing Candyland '2 for £1' range.
There's also a new sour flavoured bon bon which capitalises on the trend for tangy treats. New sour raspberry bon bons are a striking blue colour and are actually the brand's first ever blue sweets.
Swizzels Matlow has extended its Squashies range with Love Hearts, Double Lollies, Refreshers and Drumsticks all now transformed into a soft, chewy gum format.
Squashies are available as countlines, hanging bags and £1 price-marked packs to ensure that all eating occasions are catered for. Mark Walker, sales director at Swizzels Matlow, reports that the Squashies range is showing strong growth with almost 50 million packs sold.
"Squashies countline bags are perfect for an impulse purchase and the £1 price-marked packs have great impact on shelf. Sharing bags of confectionery such as Squashies are becoming increasing popular for family and friends hosting a 'big night in'."
There's no doubt that the big night in is a key occasion for sugar sales and 'gaming' is a key part of those big nights in. There are currently 33.6m active gamers in the UK growing at the rate of 9% year-on-year who are spending an eye-watering 55m hours on game consoles every day.
Skittles entertained gamers earlier this year when it teamed up with the popular fruit-slicing game to launch Fruit Ninja vs. Skittles. Within five days of its launch, it was number one in the iTunes download chart and has since been downloaded over four million times.
Nights in sharing choccie in front of the latest TV box set have kept the chocolate market buoyant but so too has innovation.
Christmas is still a few weeks away yet canny retailers are already thinking about Easter, which is still months away. Many shoppers know Christmas is over as soon as they see Cadbury Creme Eggs out on display and for many stores that's at the end of December. Indeed specialist confectionery cash and carry chain Hancocks has been stocking Creme Eggs since last month to ensure its customers can display them straight after Christmas.
From popping candy frogs to robins and even white chocolate polar bears, there really is something for everyone this Christmas. The confectionery manufacturers seem to have pulled out all the stops to ensure this Christmas will be a cracker.
According to research company Mintel, the "vibrant pack designs and lively marketing messages that characterise sugar confectionery" are in contrast to the market's sales performance. It seems all is not rosy. While price rises because of more expensive ingredients have pushed up total value sales, volume sales have fallen due to worries about healthy diets and competition from rival treats. As for those value sales, Nielsen figures show the total sugar confectionery market to be worth £1.1bn, with growth of 3.6% (MAT March 9, 2013). However, it would appear that sugar lines lack sweetness for some forecourt stores.
The UK's love of chocolate means that sales have been largely unaffected by the country's economic situation. It seems cash-strapped consumers can always find money for their favourite choccy bar.
A new report from Palmer & Harvey reveals that petrol stations sell nearly twice as much chewing gum as standalone convenience stores. It's not surprising really given the benefits of chewing gum such as giving you fresher breath and aiding concentration.
There'll be something missing from some Cadbury Creme Eggs this Easter their 'x-factor', or rather their goo! But don't worry it's all for a good cause brand owner Kraft Foods is running a special Gooless Eggs promotion, exclusive to convenience outlets, including forecourt stores.
Most forecourt retailers should probably leave the grocery superstores to battle over who sells the biggest tins of Quality Street, Roses and Celebrations at the lowest price, and instead focus on the self-eat novelties and impulse lines that they are so good at selling.
Halloween is big business in the UK. According to retail intelligence firm Planet Retail, sales rose 12.5% last year to reach £315m. Retail analyst Lisa Byfield-Green says the occasion has continued to grow consistently since Planet Retail began tracking figures in 2001.
Bags of Haribo sweets should probably come with a health warning nothing to do with sugar or calories but more to do with the fact that they'll attract a lot of attention. Open a bag of Haribos in a confined space and you'll soon be surrounded by people asking for the fried egg or whether they are the fizzy ones. According to Nielsen Scantrack data, the Haribo brand is currently enjoying 8.3% value market growth, ahead of the 2% enjoyed by the rest of the gums and jellies market.
Kraft Foods is relaunching Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) Bubble as a bubbly-shaped bar and Cadbury Wispa has a new format; Nestlé is reshaping Aero chocolate bars into 'snappable bubbles'; while Mars is extending its Galaxy Bubbles range. Quite simply, chocolate manufacturers have gone bubble crazy.
It's a case of New Year, new flavours for chewing gum. Wrigley is adding evolution which is described as a sour-to-sweet citrus pear flavour to its 5 range. Extra is taking the fruity route with a new strawberry flavour while Perfetti Van Melle is adding skweez and ice crystal, among others, to its range. All these additions will no doubt add a bit of excitement to the category and catch the eye of impulse purchasers.