If you’re looking to pep up your chocolate sales then you need to make sure you’re taking advantage of the growth of sharing bags. That’s because sharing bags is the second largest category in confectionery behind single countlines (IRI data). And what is more, within the total sharing bags category, it’s the chocolate products that are driving growth.

According to IRI data, the total sharing bag category is worth £793m. But sales of chocolate bags are up 20%, making the sub-sector now worth £298m. And Kantar Worldpanel has found that confectionery to share is becoming increasing popular with an extra 1.5 million households purchasing chocolate sharing bags last year.

The grocery multiples enjoy the lion’s share of chocolate sharing bag sales accounting for 46% of the market; followed by independents and forecourts with 32% and convenience with 22%. However while the grocery mults’ sales are up 32% and convenience sales are up 23%, independents and forecourts are up just 4% meaning there’s still massive potential for growth.

To tap into this growth you need to ensure that you stock the big brands, give them enough space and also support the new products.

Nestlé Confectionery is in the throes of refreshing its chocolate sharing bag range with new packaging with "increased resealability" and new additions to the range, including Milkybar Giant Buttons, Rolo and Smarties. The packaging features a ’love to share’ message to take advantage of the increasing popularity of sharing products. In addition, the Aero Bubbles branding has been refreshed to increase the "fun, bitesize appeal of the product".

But the big news is the launch of the Kit Kat Pop Choc sharing bag. Pop Chocs are bitesize pieces of Kit Kat wafer coated in milk chocolate. The launch is supported by a £3m media campaign including a new TV ad, women’s press, outdoor and digital activity. This campaign will form part of the £7m investment in the Kit Kat brand in the first quarter of this year.

Graham Walker, Nestlé UK trade communications manager, says: "With the chocolate sharing bag category experiencing huge growth, this is a really exciting move for the Kit Kat brand into the sharing arena. Retailers should stock up as soon as possible and create impactful displays to make the most of the £3m media investment."

Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Cadbury UK, agrees that the chocolate bags sector is performing very well, and adds that total Cadbury chocolate bags sales are worth over £63m (Nielsen).

"Our bitesize range (Cadbury Clusters, Raisins, Peanuts, Caramel Nibbles, Crunchie Rocks and the re-designed Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Buttons) are perfect for sharing and the large, re-sealable pouches offer an array of different textures and ingredients coated in Cadbury chocolate.

"Sharing bags perform well because they attract a variety of different shoppers and our range has something to suit different tastes." Nash adds that the introduction of Cadbury Caramel Nibbles and Cadbury Crunchie Rocks has brought different consumers to the brand and increased total bitesize penetration (Kantar Worldpanel).

Even well-established big-selling brands need an injection of excitement now and again. This is why Maltesers which according to IRI data is the UK’s number one selling bitesize brand, has teamed up with Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day in a bid to raise £1m for charity.

Mars’ trade communications manager, Bep Dhaliwal, explains: "The playfulness of the Maltesers brand makes it the perfect Red Nose Day partner, and to celebrate, Maltesers will be challenging members of the public to ’Raise Your Maltesers’."

Consumers are being invited to share videos and pictures of themselves suspending or raising their Maltesers in funny and innovative ways. They can then share their footage and images on www.maltesers.co.uk for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see their entry appear in TV ads for the campaign. In addition, consumers will know that they’re doing something good for charity, because at least 2p from every Red Nose Day pack purchased will go straight to Comic Relief. The activity appears on singles, big bags, treat bags, pouches, large pouches, boxes and multipacks. Red Nose Day 2011 takes place on Friday March 18 and a full range of tailored POS is available for retailers to help them make the most of the event in store.

Finally, as 70% of chocolate is purchased on impulse, secondary sitings can really help boost sales.

Mars’ Dhaliwal says that once your main display features the optimum range and is driving sales, retailers should look to implement secondary confectionery sites or themed areas in-store to capitalise on impulse sales. She explains: "For example, siting confectionery at the till where footfall is at its highest using one of our Bambino units is just one great way of driving those impulse sales. Not only that but other secondary sites such as the Slenda Glenda with its small footprint, allow you to carry new ranges you might not otherwise be able to."

She adds that bitesize wall dividers can be another great display aid as not only do they create a tidier impression on shelf and clearly communicate brands, they have been proven to deliver a 6% uplift in sales (RMS Instore data).

Everyday value

Jonathan Summerley, purchasing director at specialist confectionery cash and carry chain, Hancocks believes there’s a real opportunity for forecourts to offer their shoppers some great value, everyday chocolate.

He explains: "Retailers need to make a sensible margin and the recent price rises seen in the chocolate category have certainly squeezed margins tighter. It has also been prohibitive to shoppers, when coupled with the recent VAT increase and a potential interest rate rise in the not-too-distant future."

Hancocks has been busy driving the development of a value range of everyday chocolate that appeals to the budget-conscious consumer and gives them their chocolate fix for a bit less money. "Sales in our 18 cash and carries demonstrate the opportunity for such products in the independent sector," says Summerley.

A range of 100g chocolate bars was launched at the back end of 2010 to take advantage of the growth in the bar market. With a retail price of just 59p (at which retailers can earn a 34% margin) four varieties are available: dark, choc & nut, milk, fruit & nut.

For consumers looking for something a little more indulgent, Hancocks recently launched a value range of filled 150g chocolate bars. These, if retailed at £1, give traders a 27% margin. Varieties include: marzipan, amaretto, whisky & coffee, strawberry and mint.

Also available are new Piksy tubes, which are packed with different coloured chocolate-flavoured sweets. The 20g card tube retails at just 20p.