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.

Although Cadbury Creme Eggs have been around for decades and other younger pretenders have come and gone the brand is still the number one chocolate countline during the Easter season (Nielsen). In fact, last Easter Cadbury Creme Egg singles saw a 44% year-on-year increase in sales in January, bringing in 20% more consumers throughout the total season compared to the year before (Kantar Worldpanel).

The brand was supported via a ’Gooless’ promotion in the convenience sector to drive impulse purchases and it certainly worked.

For 2014, Gooless is going to be bigger and better, with more prizes, more marketing investment and new, bespoke point of sale to help impulse retailers make the most of the promotion. Running from January 1 to Easter Sunday on April 20, one winner every day will unwrap a gooless egg and win up to £1,000. And, for the first time, manufacturer Mondeléz International will match the prize for retailers who sell winning eggs in either Mondeléz International stock vouchers or Love To Shop vouchers, meaning they get a share of the promotion too.

The brand will also benefit from a huge marketing investment including TV, with a continuation of the ’Have a Fling with Cadbury Creme Egg’ campaign.

Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondeléz International, says: "Independent retailers will be able to take advantage of stand-out point-of-sale to catch consumers’ eyes and drive impulse purchases across a longer season, and our significant marketing investment means awareness will be high from January right through to Easter Sunday."

Meanwhile, Mars’ Galaxy chocolate caramel filled egg and Galaxy Bubbles filled egg will both be back following a splendid performance last Easter, which saw sales grow by 35% (IRI).

Sticking with smaller eggs, and Kinder Surprise is a ’must stock’ at Easter. It delivers £5.9m sales during the spring season alone (Nielsen), and is worth £21.3m annually as the number one children’s single chocolate product. In February 2014, there will be a second hatching of Kinder Surprise Pink and Blue eggs, with toys from Marvel Heroes and Disney Princess. Every coloured single egg will feature a licensed toy, while each three-pack will contain one licensed toy and two Kinder Surprise toys.

Another strong seller is Cadbury Mini Eggs, sales of which were worth over £25m in 2013 making it the second biggest brand at Easter after Cadbury Creme Egg. For independents, Nash recommends stocking the 77g £1 price-marked packs of Mini Eggs to help encourage impulse sales. This year, they’re available in smaller 12-unit cases, which are ideal for smaller retailers.

But it’s not just egg-shaped chocs that are a hit at Easter time.

Six years since first appearing on shelves, the Malteaster bunny has become an Easter must-have. It enjoyed sales growth of 28% last year alone (IRI data) and is currently worth £16.6m. The product is available as both a single chocolate-covered honeycomb rabbit, or in a sharing pack of mini bunnies.

Over at Mondelez, the Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel Bunny will be available in a new 20g self-eat format for 2014. Nash says: "Customers love the rabbit character, and it’s the ideal shape for Easter. Offering the product in a new, smaller format means retailers can take advantage of customers who are looking for something a little smaller to treat themselves during the season, featuring the loved and trusted taste of Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel."

And building on the success of the 100g Ferrero Bunny launched for last Easter, Ferrero has a new 60g moulded Bunny for 2014. The classic Ferrero Rocher flavour is said to make this little indulgence "perfect for shoppers seeking an impulsive seasonal treat". Price is a key driver for consumers in the current market and Ferrero says this is a great value treat at just £1.99 (rrp).

Smarties Little Choc Chic and Milkybar Bunny are key SKUs for Easter. Nestlé expects the Choc Chick to continue to be a hit with mums and kids last Easter it enjoyed a sales increase of 22% versus 2012), while Milkybar Bunny had an excellent first year delivering sales of over £1.2m (SIG data).

Nestlé says that in the impulse category, novelties like these generate a higher average spend from shoppers compared with traditional filled eggs (£2.26 during the season versus £2.14 for filled eggs). To maximise sales in the early season, it therefore recommends that convenience retailers focus on brands that consumers know and trust, such as Smarties and Milkybar, and create high-impact off-shelf displays so shoppers can’t miss them.

Big hit

Cadbury Dairy Milk’s limited-edition Egg ’n’ Spoon was a big hit last Easter, achieving sales of £6.1m, making it the biggest new product of spring 2013 (Nielsen). Needless to say it’s back for 2014 and promises to be an even bigger success thanks to a £3m marketing investment including TV, outdoor, social media and digital activity.

The product features individually wrapped milk chocolate egg shells filled with mousse, packaged in traditional egg cartons with spoons inside. Nash says: "Unlike other Easter novelties, which tend to focus on on-the-go or impulse consumption, this was designed for occasions when families sit down and enjoy this seasonal treat together and we think that’s why shoppers loved it so much. It’s also a great small gift alternative to a traditional shell egg."

According to Nielsen data, Cadbury shell eggs account for eight of the top 10 SKUs, making them a ’must-stock’ for retailers. Nash recommends that independent retailers focus on medium shell eggs, making the most of strong brands to drive sales. She says that last Easter, Cadbury Creme Egg medium was the number one shell egg in independents and symbols.

Maltesers has an extended egg range for 2014. And Nicola Lacey, central sales director at Mars Chocolate UK, says that with the new Maltesers Teaser large egg and Maltesers luxury egg, retailers have a great opportunity to drive incremental sales, using the strength of the brand and by catering for consumers’ purchasing needs.

Galaxy has benefited from brand new packaging across its range, so its Easter 2014 line-up will feature a fresh new look too. Available in medium, large and luxury branded eggs, as well as self-eat filled eggs, Lacey expects the redesigned Galaxy range to build on last year’s 18% sales growth (IRI).

But there are plenty of other eggs available including some more unusual lines. Ferrero has a new premium offering for 2014. Its 3D egg-shaped seasonal gift pack is a luxurious alternative to traditional Easter Eggs. The egg contains 16 Ferrero Rocher chocolates and rrp is £5.49.

New product round up

Kinder is launching Kinder Surprise Pink and Blue Easter eggs this spring. The large 100g eggs will contain limited-edition Polly Pocket and Batman toys. The addition will be supported with a 10-second tag on the Kinder Surprise TV ad.
The Kinder Surprise Bunny is getting a makeover for 2014 with a new shape, new look and a surprise toy inside for the first time. Rrp is £2.50.
Joining Mars’ Maltesers line-up is Malteasers Teasers as a large Easter egg.
Mini filled bags from Cadbury have a new look this year, along with two new variants: Cadbury Dairy Milk and Cadbury Dairy Milk with Daim.
Ferrero is launching a seasonal gift pouch pack of Raffaello, containing 27 almond and coconut treats. The pack features a fresh spring design, making it an ideal seasonal present, particularly for Mother’s Day on March 30.
Hancocks has a new 100g chocolate bar that is topped with tiny mini eggs. The cash and carry company will also be stocking a great value £1 hollow chocolate bunny and a 500g bucket of foil-wrapped eggs (rrp £3.99).
Thorntons has introduced Easter bunny Harry Hopalot to its range in various sizes, in milk and white chocolate versions. His arrival will be supported by PR activity, online and social campaigns, as well as via point-of-sale material.

Top Tips

Make the most of the seasonal sales opportunities by stocking up early from January if possible.
Expand fixture space in-store to ensure prominent feature displays for Easter eggs.
Keep shoppers of all ages and budgets in mind when selecting an Easter egg range. Stock a selection of medium, large, luxury and premium eggs. If you have limited space, stock large and luxury eggs as they offer greater returns.
Don’t neglect everyday shoppers keep well stocked up with year-round best sellers as consumers continue to purchase everyday confectionery in addition to Easter products.
Introduce secondary sitings in high footfall areas for self-treat purchases, such as the Malteaster Bunny.
Source: Mars

The cash and carry view

Hancocks purchasing director, Jonathan Summerley, says it’s easy to see why many retailers have become a little jaded about Easter what with all the competition from the grocery multiples. However he believes there are still many opportunities for increased confectionery sales over Easter, just not necessarily in the traditional format of mainstream branded eggs. He says that in addition to self-treats, retailers should start to develop a general gifting display during January. "Not everyone wants to buy chocolate eggs at Easter and so a range of general gifting items can suit all of the spring events. A prominent gifting display can be altered and developed throughout the spring to accommodate additional items for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and then Easter.
"The most important thing when choosing your display is to steer clear of obvious core supermarket products. Regular trips to all of the local competitor stores in your area should be an essential task.
"Our advice would be to start early and consider the spring season as a whole, tweaking your range as you move through the various events. Make your shoppers aware of what you have to offer and understand how they wish to buy from you. Keep close to your local competition to avoid any pitfalls and inject enthusiasm into your range and your display. The sales will then follow and the effort will have been worth it."