Would you like to guess how much was spent on Christmas confectionery last year? Well, if you said around £800m you would be right because, according to IRI data, we in the UK spent £824m on chocolate and sweets last Christmas. A lot of that spend goes on gifting and sharing items but it seems we also like to treat ourselves. Confectionery giant Mondelez (with a 27% share of the Christmas market EPOS Tracker data) says it all kicks off in October when shoppers begin looking to buy festive treats for themselves and their family to build excitement at the start of the season. The company therefore says this is the biggest opportunity in the convenience channel because of the impulsive nature of these sales. Displaying products such as the Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) Mousse Snowman helps to signpost the Christmas season and kick-start early sales. Four million CDM Mousse Snowman were sold in 2016, making the product worth £1.9m. However, Mars Chocolate claims the number one-selling treat with its Maltesers Merryteaser Reindeer and at number two is the Maltesers Merryteaser Mini-Reindeer sharing bag, which the company says can be an impulsive purchase or a top-up gift.

Full of character

Over at Nestlé, the popular Smarties Little Choc Penguin and the white chocolate Milkybar Polar Bear Cub (both rrp 65p) have been updated with both featuring four new designs on their foil packaging, giving them added ’personality’ and enabling shoppers to choose their favourite. The Milkybar Polar Bear Cub also benefits from the brand’s new ’Milk First’ recipe which delivers the same taste that consumers know from Milkybar but now with milk as the number one ingredient.

Also available again for this Christmas is the Quality Street Honeycomb Crunch impulse bar (rrp 65p) after its successful launch last year.

A spokesperson at Nestlé explains: "The early season is particularly important for seasonal impulse, as sales at this time are incremental to core confectionery. Consumers love the novelty and excitement seasonal treats provide.

"Retailers should therefore look to capitalise on off-shelf opportunities, as visibility is critical to ensure shoppers do not miss these products when they launch in-store."

Festive advent-ure

The Christmas countdown for many consumers starts with an advent calendar so November is the month when you need to make sure your advent calendars are out on display so customers know you have them ready for December 1. The superstores may be doing offers on them but they often sell out fast so this is an opportunity for independents, especially as nowadays many households have more than one calendar on the go with everyone choosing their favourite chocolate. And there are plenty to choose from Kellogg’s is even doing a cereal one but unfortunately it’s exclusive to Tesco. Mondelez has a great one targeted at teenagers the Heroes advent calendar, rrp £4.99. It’s digitally interactive which means that each day you can scan the door you’ve opened via the Blippar app and access different selfie filters. Also available is the CDM advent calendar which is the number one in the marketplace according to IRI data. Rrp for this one is £2.19.

Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager at Mars Chocolate UK, says advent calendars are a great way of building ’buzz and excitement’ in the build-up to Christmas, adding that Mars has a strong selection across its portfolio of world-famous brands. These include the Maltesers Merryteaser calendar, the third best-selling calendar last year (Nielsen) and the Galaxy advent calendar, which delivered 30% growth to the advent category last year.

The Mars calendar was also in the top 10 and this year is given a boost by new pack artwork to increase visibility on-shelf. All Mars’ advent calendars have an rrp of £2.79.

The white one

The Milkybar advent calendar is the market’s number one white chocolate one, worth £1.7m in value sales. Last year sales grew 149% in the convenience channel as it proved more popular than ever with shoppers (IRI).

This year the calendar will benefit from a fun new design, and, along with the rest of the Milkybar brand, will also feature the ’Milk First’ recipe.

Meanwhile, Nielsen data shows that the premium advent segment experienced strong growth last year (+41%). In response to this, Ferrero is launching the Kinder Mix advent calendar (rrp £5), which contains Kinder Chocolate Minis and Kinder Chocolate with Cereals Minis. And Ferrero’s Thorntons brand is adding to its existing licence for The Snowman with the introduction of The Snowman and The Snowdog advent calendar (rrp £10), containing milk chocolate with a 60g white chocolate Snowdog for Christmas Day.

In addition, Kinder is launching a social media campaign, inviting children to broaden their imagination and share their magical Christmas wishes and moments. One lucky family will win the chance to have their Christmas wishes come true, delivered to their door by Kinder.

Share and share alike

Come December and Christmas is well and truly on the way. Harassed shoppers will be looking for ’easy wins’, particularly on items such as top-up gifts and sharing products, as nobody likes the thought of running out. Dhaliwal at Mars reminds us that chocolate is a great option for consumers looking to buy a ’safe’ gift that everyone will love. Indeed some people like to keep a couple of extra gifts on standby just in case someone unexpectedly drops by.

Ideal for this is the popular Thorntons range. Thorntons Continental experienced exceptional sales last Christmas seeing triple-digit growth (+199% Nielsen) and becoming the fastest growing boxed chocolate brand. Building on this success, Thorntons Continental will this year be available in a Dark variant.

The brand also has two other new boxes: Thorntons Seasonal Selection, which is a small Christmas-themed box of popular flavours including limited editions; and Thorntons Christmas Selection, which includes popular favourites Winter Fudge, Vanilla Snowflake and a festive Christmas Tree.

These are well worth stocking as Kantar data shows that 19.4 million households buy into the boxed chocolates category.

At Nestlé, the traditional Dairy Box brand has a fresh new design as well as seven new chocolates: Cookies & Crème Sundae, Caramel Heart, Raspberry Kiss, Orange Surprise, Crispy Caramel Truffle, Hazelnut Dream and Rose Bliss. The Dairy Box Deluxe Collection (rrp £6) caters for consumers looking for a giftworthy, luxury box of chocolates. It also features a new chocolate, exclusive to this pack for 2017 the Deluxe Caramel Truffle.

Nestlé is tapping into the salted caramel trend with the launch of Quality Street Matchmakers in the popular flavour, rrp £2.24. The launch will be supported by a social media campaign as well as product sampling

As the UK’s number one after-dinner mint brand, After Eight is a real must-stock line.

It continues to drive growth in the category, with sales value up more than 7% in 2016 (IRI). The key packs for convenience retailers are the classic After Eight 300g carton and Mint Straws sharing packs.

But it’s twistwraps that Nestlé says remain the most important confectionery category for retailers at Christmas, attracting over 14 million shoppers. And the tub is still the biggest-selling format accounting for 69% of twistwrap sales (IRI).

Nestlé says the Quality Street tub (rrp £7.74) remains the key pack for convenience retailers but the fastest-growing format in the range is the 500g pouch bag (rrp £4.99), which the company says has brought new consumers into the brand and is growing +18% year-on-year. The 265g carton (£2.99), is still a popular token gift it sold 15 million packs in 2016 (Kantar).

And the brand will be back on TV for the third year running as part of a high-profile media campaign. The high performing TV ad will be on screen throughout November and December thanks to a £1.5m media spend. The ad has proven to have strong consumer appeal and relevance especially with mums. The brand will also benefit from social media and experiential campaigns.

number one tub

However, Nielsen reveals Celebrations as the number one-selling tub and pouch brand (Nielsen). The 680g Celebrations tub is available rrp £10.99 and the pouch at rrp £4.99.

Dhaliwal says the traditionally strong performance of the Celebrations range will be aided this year by Mars Chocolate UK’s new and improved display materials. "Use all the pos available to you to create in-store theatre that makes iconic products like Maltesers Merryteaser Reindeer unmissable in-store," she says.

Over at Mondelez, Cadbury Heroes sold well last Christmas according to IRI data. This year the chocolates are available in a new cracker. The 123g pack has an rrp of £2.99.

Finally, the final week leading up to Christmas is worth £127m to the chocolate market and the last two weeks represent almost a third of total season sales so retailers are advised to keep fully stocked with a range of chocolate products right up to Christmas Day.

"Consumers are willing to spend and indulge more at key calendar events like Christmas, leading to a trend in more premium purchases," reminds Dhaliwal.

"This has been evident in the strong performance of the gift and boxed segments so retailers should ensure that they are fully stocked with these products."

Lily’s got the lot this Christmas

If you’re looking for something really eye-catching but stylish for a Christmas display, look no further than the Lily O’Brien’s range. The super premium packaging has been inspired by Christmas villages and all the chocolates inside are hand-crafted, using the highest-quality ingredients featuring festive flavours such as Orange & Cinnamon and Apple Cider Caramel.
One of the most impressive products is the new Chocolate Indulgence Christmas Round Hat Keepsake Box. It retails at £32 but weighs in at 720g, containing 60 chocolates.
Then there’s the Chocolate Connoisseurs Christmas House Collection, featuring festive recipe chocolates including Grand Cru Ganache, Festive Orange & Cinnamon, Apple Cider Caramel and Spiced Christmas Latte. Rrp is £9. 
For those on a tight budget, there’s the Festive Spiced Latte Christmas Village House (rrp £5); the Festive Crème Brûlée Cracker Tower (£5); the Sea Salted Caramel Christmas Tree (£5); and the Petit Indulgence Keepsake Star (£5.50).

Fast-growing Ferrero Rocher

The Ferrero seasonal boxed offering, which includes Ferrero Rocher, Ferrero Collection, Raffaello and Thorntons, enjoyed double-digit growth last Christmas (+13.6% Nielsen).
Ferrero Rocher has in fact experienced five years of consecutive growth over the festive period against the backdrop of a flat category.
With four out of five Rocher buyers purchasing during Christmas (Kantar data), Ferrero’s customer development director, Levi Boorer, says it is vital for the brand to continue driving momentum during this period. With this in mind, the company is investing £4.1m across Ferrero Rocher and Raffaello this year. Ferrero Rocher will be supported by a new TV creative in the lead up to Christmas. Called ’Make Your Moments Golden’, it is designed to engage younger audiences and remind people of the great tastes that come from the brand.
Alongside this, Ferrero Rocher will receive a full support package including video-on-demand, digital, social and experiential marketing, keeping the products front of mind during the key seasonal occasion.
Ferrero Collection will also be supported during Christmas with press advertising and in-store support. And Ferrero Golden Gallery includes two new flavours.
Meanwhile, following a successful year of +75% growth (Nielsen), Raffaello’s support will continue to focus on highlighting the sweet, smooth and nutty flavours of the product via TV, as well as encouraging additional trial through digital, social and sampling.
In total, Ferrero will be investing £8.2m this Christmas.

Eat chocolate; help seahorses

Guylian’s Sea Shells are made using only the finest, hand-selected Mediterranean hazelnuts, which are roasted and caramellised before being blended with premium Belgian chocolate. Apparently, consumers can never have just the one chocolate, which is why the standard pack is now 50% bigger, at 375g,rrp £6.75.
What is more, consumers can indulge knowing they are doing some good as Guylian supports Project Seahorse, which is dedicated to preserving seahorses and other marine life throughout the world. It has supported the cause since 1999.

Sweet stuff from Perfetti van Melle

Mark Roberts, trade marketing manager at Perfetti Van Melle (PVM), says there was a surge in sugar confectionery sales last December, with £15.2m of sales made in Christmas week alone.
Capitalising on this increase in popularity, PVM has unveiled several new lines for this Christmas. These include:
Chupa Chups Xmas Greeting Cards a sweet way to send best wishes. Each card contains a different Christmas themed chewy candy (Santa, Christmas tree or a shooting star). There are three different designs. Rrp is £2. Cards come 20 to a box, containing randomly mixed designs with one barcode. Roberts says they are ideal for secondary locations.
Chupa Chups Candy Cake these mini candy cakes make a great seasonal gift. There are specific Christmas versions (red and green in colour) but other coloured versions too for all-year-round. They are made from 15 different candies including marshmallows, jellies and candies. Rrp is £5 and they come 12 to an outer.
Perfetti Van Melle Limited Edition Party Mixes available in a convenient ’tear and share’ pouch format, there is the Fab Mix containing 45 sweets and the Best of Minis containing 56 sweets. Rrp is £3.
Also available is the Chupa Chups Candy Pizza, which achieved £2.5m in its first year of sales. Rrp is £5.

Keep on snowing

Hancocks’ Let It Snow range has been praised by retailers for its great combination of quality, price and impactful packaging. There’s also the fact that products offer returns of up to 41.1% when sold at rrp. Last year’s best sellers included Mallow Pops and Milk Chocolate Coins. This year they are joined by new products including the Giant Chocolate Santa standing 63cm tall and weighing 2.5kg, a Giant Gummy Beer (a beer flavoured gummy tankard), a super-sized Giant Strawberry and a new range of gingerbread kits, which are VAT-free.

Tangerine brings out the kid in all of us

Kidulting is a global trend noticed by Tangerine Confectionery, which is the popularity of treats and sweets geared towards adult consumers who are looking for ways to relive their childhood.
Russell Tanner, marketing and category management director at the firm, explains: "As Christmas brings out the big kid in all of us, it’s no surprise that in 2016 demand for retro sweets soared during the festive period, offering retailers an opportunity to maximise sales with old favourites."
He says the Sweet Champions carton by Tangerine Confectionery taps into this trend as it features a large selection of confectionery icons, including Dip Dab, Sherbet Fountain, Wham, Black Jack, Fruit Salad and Refreshers Softies. With an rrp of just £5, the carton is expected to fly off retailers’ shelves again this year, following successful sales last Christmas.