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.

According to a report in The Times, manufacturers would rather reduce the size of their bars than be ’named and shamed’ by Public Health England as it looks into childhood obesity. Of course, there’s no mention whether prices of said chocolate will shrink too.

Meanwhile, Nestlé might have a different solution up its sleeve as late last year it announced that it had devised new technology that could reduce the sugar in some of its products by up to 40% without impairing the taste. These could appear as early as next year.

However, despite the spotlight on sugar, research firm Mintel has found that it has had little effect on sugar consumption.

"With the majority of people thinking it is okay to eat small amounts of chocolate every day as part of a balanced diet, an increased emphasis can be placed on eating smaller amounts of more premium or luxury products as a daily treat," is the view of Richard Caines, senior food and drink analyst at the firm.

Mintel found that nine out of 10 people eat chocolate, with 54% of them doing so more than once a week. And frequency of eating chocolate is virtually unchanged from 2015, which Mintel says demonstrates the enduring appeal of chocolate as an affordable treat even in the face of ongoing negative headlines around sugar.

The vast majority of all age groups eat chocolate, but younger consumers and women are significantly more likely to eat it more frequently than other groups.

The number one reason for buying chocolate is as a treat, cited by nearly six in 10 people in research conducted last year. Linked to the appeal of chocolate as a treat is eating it to boost your mood (24%) or to give an energy boost (16%).

The second biggest reason for buying chocolate is for an evening in at home.

Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, believes people are opting to entertain more at home, so the Big Night In occurrence is bigger than ever," he says.

"Shoppers will purchase for the ’big night in’ occasion in two broad ways: one, in advance and as part of their main shop; and two, as a last-minute, spontaneous purchase. The latter is experiencing the most significant growth, reinforced by research from him! that told us that 30% of shoppers did not know what they were going to have for their meal that same evening and would likely purchase it on their way home. This gives retailers a huge opportunity to influence shopper behaviour in terms of what they are going to eat and drink that night. For example, a good selection of chocolates and wine placed on a secondary siting adjacent to everyday meals will provide inspiration for shoppers and drive basket spend."

Boorer says that with many shoppers picking up additional products from forecourt convenience stores to consume for a big night in, retailers can inspire shoppers at the point of purchase by stocking a variety of products together, including boxed confectionery, crisps and wine. Retailers can also utilise disruptive and free point-of-sale material from Ferrero. "Free-standing display units placed near a till point can help to encourage impulse purchases. We understand that different size stores need different in-store solutions, which is why we’ve created a smaller, more practical, free-standing display unit for stores with limited floor space."

It’s a gift

Boorer says there is a continued trend towards premium confectionery products, with shoppers opting for quality over quantity for their ’give to gift’ and ’give to share’ moments.

Mintel’s research backs this up, revealing that consumers are prepared to spend more when buying chocolate as a gift than when they are buying it for themselves.

A premium positioning is important, with being a luxury brand (44%), coming from a specialist chocolate store (30%) and luxurious packaging (29%), most likely to encourage people to spend more for chocolate as a gift, says the report.

"We understand the role that sharing now plays within the confectionery market," says Boorer, "and, as a result, the Ferrero and Thorntons Boxed Chocolate ranges will be clearly positioned in line with these two key shopper missions to make the category easy to navigate."

The Thorntons boxed chocolate portfolio includes a clearly defined range, designed to make it easy to shop. Thorntons Moments caters for the family sharing occasion, with the inclusion of an assortment of favourite and accessible flavours, while Thornton Classic Collection, Thorntons Pudding and Thorntons Mint are the perfect gifting options for those looking for quality and familiarity from a trusted brand like Thorntons. For something really special, Thorntons Continental provides shoppers with something completely different, with the box’s giftable cues and inspired assortment of chocolates.

Boorer says Ferrero is also placing a big focus on its Raffaello brand this year with a £2.85m investment.

"Raffaello is the perfect thoughtful gift for those special Girls Night In occasions and we’ll be promoting this through our creative TV commercial, video-on-demand and a mass sampling programme. The TV creative - which was a huge success in Ireland, doubling the brand in that market profiles the sweet, smooth and nutty flavours of the product and has been designed to encourage trial, while connecting with a younger audience through its tongue-in-cheek script."

Look what’s new

When it comes to NPD there’s no shortage of confectionery launches all year long. You realise why when you read Mintel’s data which reveals that seeing new flavours in-store prompts chocolate purchasing among 44% of buyers, while 43% say that novelty products encourage them to buy chocolate. This shows the importance of regular NPD and high in-store visibility for those new product launches.

But although chocolate is a treat, purchasing is still heavily influenced by price. Interestingly 56% of buyers Mintel surveyed admitted that they like to buy seasonal chocolate at a reduced price after a seasonal event such as Christmas or Easter is over and 37% are buying more from discounters.

According to Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelez International, the most exciting new products in confectionery have been all about blowing apart category boundaries and bringing together different flavours, textures and brands, which drive new consumers to the category.

Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) is helping to deliver on this consumer trend with the launch of CDM Medley which Nash describes as a "new, exciting, multiple taste experience that aims to drive new growth in small tablets".

CDM Medley combines visible, high-quality ’onclusions’ and a soft chocolate centre, wrapped in CDM Chocolate.

"Inspired by the end of the day when there’s time for relaxation and pleasure, the visually beautiful and sumptuous tasting product will be available in two 93g tablets the first with dark chocolate chips, biscuit and fudge pieces, and the second with dark chocolate chips, caramelised hazelnuts and raspberry pieces," says Nash.

By unlocking the evening treat occasion, she adds that the launch aims to boost incremental growth in small tablets, particularly among 25-44 year-old women looking for something special for an evening treat.

CDM also recently brought ’big taste’ to the singles market with its Big Taste Toffee Whole Nut. Available in a 43g bar, it combines the textures of whole nuts with toffee smothered in CDM chocolate. "The launch aims to drive penetration in singles, particularly among those looking for textured eats, chunky bites and intense chocolatey flavours when they’re on-the-go or during the afternoon dip," explained Nash at the time of the launch of Big Taste big tablets last April.

The three big tablets were launched in three variants Toffee Whole Nut, Oreo Crunch and Triple Choc Sensation. And since then, just under two million bars have been sold and CDM Big Taste Toffee Whole Nut has been ranked number one in large tablets (Nielsen).

More recently, CDM has added two new flavours to its Oreo blocks range: Mint and Peanut Butter.

Both contain a flavoured cream filling, in addition to chunks of Oreo cookie. The launch will be backed by a £3m marketing investment.

More Bites

Meanwhile, Nestlé Confectionery has unveiled its second launch in six months from flagship brand KitKat. New KitKat Bites Peanut Butter join KitKat Bites, which launched in September 2016 and is already a top 20 sharing bag (IRI).

Available now, the new sharing bag aims to tap into the growing popularity of peanut butter as a flavour variant.

This has been highlighted by the fact that KitKat Chunky Peanut Butter has been a strong performer in the Chunky range proving it’s a winning flavour combination for both consumers and retailers.

But with KitKat Bites Peanut Butter, there’s a first, with the praline layer between the classic wafers replaced with a layer of peanut butter instead.

Both KitKat Bites and KitKat Bites Peanut Butter sharing bags are designed to capitalise on the long-term growth in sharing occasions with friends and family. Indeed according to IRI data, sharing confectionery sales have grown 33% in value since 2012.

The launch is supported by a high- profile media campaign which starts this month, with a spend of almost £3m, to ensure consumers cannot miss it.

It will feature TV, digital and social media and is expected to be seen by 40 million people.

Of course, that’s not the only activity from Nestlé’s flagship brand it kicked off the year by giving consumers the chance to win their very own personalised KitKat.

The promotion is featured across four-finger and Chunky singles, multipacks and two-finger biscuit packs. Prizes are up for grabs every day until the end of this month.

For a chance to win, consumers have to enter a code from their promotional pack on the special website. The lucky winners will then be able to upload their own photo as well as personalise text to say whose break it is, for example, Stephanie’s Break.

This will then be printed onto a KitKat wrapper and their very own four-finger milk wafer biscuit will be produced and posted out in a gift box. The gift box doubles as a frame for the KitKat.

The activity is backed by a £1m media campaign, which focuses on digital and social media.

Finally, the £126m Kinder brand has just been given another boost with the launch of its latest range of Kinder Surprise Pink and Blue eggs, containing Barbie and Justice League toys, under licence from Mattel and Warner Bros.

Kinder Pink and Blue has been a huge success for the brand. First launched in 2013, it is already worth £67m (Nielsen data), and is continuing to grow (+15%) in a declining kids’ confectionery category.

Says Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero UK: "Kinder has sustained its growth by appealing to many families as the ideal way to treat children due to its high quality, added value and small portion sizes."

The new eggs, which are available until mid-April, are supported by a £1.3m TV advertising campaign. Rrp is 86p.

Cadbury kicks off

Cadbury has announced a three-year partnership with the Premier League, the first-ever football partnership for the chocolate brand.
Kicking off from the beginning of the 2017/18 season, the partnership will see Cadbury join forces with the Premier League to build on Mondelez International’s Health for Life community programme, which is focused on making a sustained difference to the lifestyles of 60,000 school children.
Cadbury and the Premier League will work together to create new, tailored sessions focused on healthy lifestyles, expanding the programme’s reach to inspire young people in schools across the country.
The agreement also gives Cadbury access to a range of rights relating to player milestones including the Premier League’s Golden Boot and Golden Glove awards.

Bake a million

Maltesers is calling for the nation’s support to raise £1m this Red Nose Day (March 24) as it launches its #bakeamillion campaign for Comic Relief.
This is the chocolate brand’s fourth campaign since beginning its partnership with Comic Relief in 2011, and so far it has raised over £3.8m for the charity through on-pack donations and associated fundraising.
This latest initiative encourages consumers to get baking, and upload a picture of their Red Nose Day cake or bake with #bakeamillion to their social media channel of choice. For each cake or bake photo uploaded, Maltesers will donate £5 towards its £1m total donation.
The #bakeamillion campaign will be supported by significant media investment, including a digital-led campaign called ’Any Cake, Any Shape’ to inspire the nation to get baking this Red Nose Day, no matter what their ability.
Mars Chocolate’s range of Maltesers singles, pouches and Maltesers Teasers single bars are all flashed with ’You Bake, We Donate £1million’.

Top tips

Focus on the best-selling lines.
Have a range that covers all need states: self-eat, sharing and gifting confectionery.
Place best sellers in the best-selling area ie the central point of vision.
Use manufacturers’ point of sale material.
Make the most of brand investment have displays in store when consumers will be most aware of products as a result of advertising or media investment.
Don’t forget the basics; keep fully stocked and keep the display tidy.
Group products with similar attributes adjacent to each other (eg containing nuts).
Source: Mondelez