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Merry making

Christmas truly is the season to be jolly because, according to Nielsen, it is the number one season that shoppers buy extra products for. And confectionery is the number one category specifically bought in convenience stores for Christmas.

Asda and Tesco may have tubs of twistwraps stacked high in their doorways already and they may be doing special offers on selection boxes, but canny forecourt retailers can still win with Christmas confectionery.

The message from the suppliers is to be prepared early. Even though you haven't sold all your Halloween goodies yet, they say you should have the Christmas self-eat lines out.

Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelez, says display is critical, so self-eats, tubes and Christmas sharing novelties should already be out. And they should be followed later this month by advent calendars, then in November she advises you extend your range with the introduction of tree decorations, selection boxes and gifting novelties. Then in December she says the focus should be on driving impulse and top-up gifting sales.

Self-eats

The biggest self-eat brand last Christmas was the Cadbury Dairy Milk Snowman, which achieved sales of £3.1m according to Nielsen data. The 30g vanilla mousse and chocolate mousse variants are back this year, packed 33 to an outer, with an rrp of 65p.

Also from Cadbury is the Freddo Popping Candy bar, available in two festive colours. These are packed 60 to an outer, rrp 25p.

If you didn't stock the Toblerone 60g triangle last year, you should definitely consider it this year. One million pounds-worth of the product was sold in 2014 and, according to Nielsen, it was the third best-selling new line last year. It comes 25 to an outer, rrp £1.19.

Another new line that was a big hit last year was the Quality Street My Orange Bar Kantar Worldpanel data revealed that 65% of shoppers who bought this product were new to the category, meaning it generated lucrative incremental sales. The bar returns this year, sitting alongside the Quality Street My Green Bar. Both have an rrp of 65p.

From Mars, the popular Maltesers Merryteaser Reindeer is available in new pre-fill solutions and there's a pos range designed to drive sales and maximise impulse purchases. There are new lines too: the Mini Merryteaser Reindeer sharing bag, rrp £1.29, and the Mini Merryteaser Reindeer gift card, rrp £3.

For younger consumers, Nestlé Confectionery offers the Smarties Little Choc Penguin (rrp 65p) and the Milkybar Polar Bear Cub (rrp 65p).

And from Ferrero there is the new T48 Kinder Surprise winter pack, designed to deliver seasonal stand-out on shelf. Each Surprise has an rrp of 86p.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Snow Bites, though described as a sharing product, are often a self-eat. But whoever was eating them, they were a big hit last year so much so that Mondelez ran out. However, the company's Christmas brand manager Steve Chick says they are "incredibly confident" that that won't happen again this year. Snow Bites come in 90g bags, 18 per outer. Rrp is £1.15.

Twistwraps

Despite the fierce price competition, twistwraps remains one of the key categories for retailers at Christmas, accounting for 30% of all seasonal confectionery sales. What is more, nearly eight million households buy twistwraps early in the Christmas season, with nearly 45% returning for more later (Kantar).

For Christmas 2015, four out of Quality Street's 12 sweets have new and improved recipes, including the Toffee Penny, Toffee Finger and Orange Crème. There is also a new pack design, aimed to give the brand a more premium look.

Nestlé says the Quality Street 350g gift carton (rrp £4.38) is the must-stock pack, as it provides a perfect solution for the distress shopping mission that's so important to the convenience channel.

New to the range is a 315g lantern-shaped gift carton (rrp £3.99). It has clear sides so shoppers can see the sweets inside.

It was available last year exclusively to one of Nestlé's customers and the confectionery company said it brought new shoppers to the brand and delivered incremental sales to the category. Also new is a 240g mini tin (rrp £3). Again this was available last year as a 'customer exclusive', where 60% of sales were incremental to the brand and the category.

A new 550g pouch bag is also available (rrp £4.99), aimed at informal sharing occasions.

Moving on to Roses, and in 2014 over 6.2 million cartons of the chocolates were purchased. It has a new pack design which brand owner Mondelez says is closer to the historic 'Roses' design, plus the 'Thank you' messaging is back.

Inside, a new flow wrap around each chocolate prevents them becoming unwrapped and affecting the other flavours. There is also a new chocolate: almond caramel bite. There are two size cartons available: 187g, rrp £3.09, packed nine to an outer; and 321g, rrp £4.59, six to an outer.

With 16% of households buying Heroes (Kantar data), shoppers will expect to find them on your shelves.

For Christmas there is a new pack design and a new chocolate, with Wispa joining the line up.

The big news for forecourts is a convenience trade exclusive a 93g sharing pouch of Heroes. There are 10 to an outer and rrp is £1.49. Other pack sizes include two cartons: 185g, rrp £3.09, packed nine to an outer; and 323g, rrp £4.59, six to an outer.

Boxed chocs

During the Christmas season, boxed chocolates are bought by six million more households than throughout the rest of the year, demonstrating their worth on shelf (IRI).

Fifty per cent of Cadbury Milk Tray sales occur at Christmas (Nielsen), making it another must-stock line. The brand is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a new-look pack that features outlines of the chocolates on it. There are also three new chocolates: salted caramel charm; truffle heart; and apple crunch. Plus Milk Tray will be backed by a £4m TV campaign.

After Eight remains the number one after dinner mint (IRI) plus it has the highest loyalty from one Christmas to the next of any boxed chocolate, with 68% of shoppers who bought them in 2013 returning to buy them again in 2014 (Kantar). This year the brand benefits from an extended range as well as support via digital media such as Facebook and Pinterest to engage with a younger audience.

Nestlé says the classic 300g pack is a must stock (rrp £4.01) but also available are After Eight Straws (rrp £3.49) and a refreshed version of the After Eight tin, which contains two 200g cartons and has an rrp of £6.

One boxed chocolate brand that's particularly good at recruiting younger shoppers to the category is Quality Street Matchmakers. Nestlé says the cool mint and zingy orange flavours (rrp £2.24) are must-stocks for forecourt retailers, while the honeycomb flavour is available for those retailers with more shelf space.

After Eight may be the number one after-dinner mint but it was Bendicks which is the fastest growing brand up 16.4% (Nielsen). Andy Mutton, sales director at brand owner Storck UK, puts this growth down to consumers trading up to a more premium offering.

Novelties

Ten million households now buy into the novelties segment, so they are well worth stocking too.

New for kids from Nestlé is the Smarties Santa's Chimney (rrp £3). Each pack contains 10 boxes of Mini Smarties and as each one is taken out of the chimney it reveals Santa stuck inside.

For teens and adults, there is the new Kit Kat Tin Bus (rrp £5.99), which contains four four-finger and four Chunky milk chocolate bars.

Also new are two Nestlé festive chocolate blocks. The Smarties block (rrp £1.29) has red and green mini Smarties embedded in each bar as well as specially designed festive packaging, while the Aero White Winter sharing block (rrp £1.29) has sparking silver baubles on-pack.

Nestlé's range accounts for 50% of giant tube sales.

Its winning range incudes Smarties (the number one giant tube), Milkybar (the second best-selling tube) and Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles (the third best seller). And back in the range for 2015 is the Munchies Giant Tube. All have rrps of £1.38.

Finally, whatever you decide to stock, you need to make sure it's prominently displayed.

Use any pos material you can get your hands on to highlight it in-store and also out on the forecourt.

Shoppers might not be as cash rich as they once were, but many are still time poor and anything you can do to remind them about what they need, and then provide those things for them, will be welcome.


Retailer view

Kat Brown, forecourt manager, Brobot Corby Southern Gateway:
"Christmas confectionery is still a big deal for us; we sell a lot of it. We use gondola ends to promote it and put pos up in the normal confectionery display to flag up things on promotion.
"Last year we did really well on tubs of twistwaps (Roses, Heroes, Celebrations etc). I think that's because Asda had them in early and had sold out by November, but we still had them. Plus we were selling them at a good price £5. Some people would buy some and come back for more because they said they'd eaten them already.
"Impulse lines like the Cadbury mousse Snowman were another good seller for us as a lot of people bought them as a little treat. And advent calendars sold well too.
"We weren't left with any stock over either. We had the odd box of chocolates left but they would be what we normally stock anyway."


New lines to look out for

Perfetti van Melle is launching a Chupa Chups Star Wars confectionery range to coincide with the launch of the new film; Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, which is released in December. Its limited-edition Chupa Chups Star Wars drinking cups (rrp £4) come in three collectable designs and each has 10 lollipops inside. They are available now alongside the new limited edition Chupa Chups Star Wars sharing bags, rrp £1.29 (pictured left).
Look out for two new gift baubles from Mondelez. Its Oreo bauble contains new Cadbury Dairy Milk covered vanilla and Oreo twistwraps while its Snow Bites bauble contains four mini bags of the chocolates. Rrp is £4.99, with eight to an outer.
Toffifee is available in a new 250g pack for the impulse channel, designed for individual consumption and gifting.
Kinder Chocolate Happy (rrp £2) is a sharing bag of 12 individually foil-wrapped Kinder chocolates in seasonal shapes. In addition, a bigger version of Ferrero Grand Rocher (a 240g pack, rrp £8.99) is available, which Ferrero says takes the figures and shapes category to another level and helps retailers capitalise on the growing trend for premium gifting.
Available from Tangerine is the £5 Sweet Champions tin, which includes iconic confectionery lines such as Dip Dab, Sherbet Fountain, Wham, Black Jacks and Fruit Salads.
New Bassett's Santa Babies (pictured left) follow the success of Easter's Jelly Bunnies. Mondelez reports that the latter brought a huge level of incremental sales.
Storck has another hit on its hands Werther's Original Golden Mix. It reports that since its launch last year, sales have been incremental to the Werther's Original range and have driven growth by 2.6%, which it says highlights the seasonal opportunity for retailers to offer a broader range.

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