With Valentine’s Day safely out of the way and all those red roses and chocolate hearts sold, forecourt retailers can look forward to a double whammy on the confectionery sales front – Mother’s Day on March 21, followed by Easter on April 9-12.

Forecourts, of course, are in a great position to capitalise on both of these occasions. Firstly, there’s the fact that men make up most of their clientele. It may be sexist, but many men are ‘last-minute merchants’ – they don’t remember any significant occasion until that particular day actually dawns. You can bet that many won’t realise it’s Mother’s Day until they’re in their local garage filling up with petrol – and that’s only because the canny forecourt retailer has made a special Mother’s Day display to jog their memories. These last-minute purchases should have retailers rubbing their hands with glee as surveys by the likes of Kraft Foods have found men feel so guilty about nearly forgetting these occasions that they make up for it with the most expensive gift they can get their hands on such as the biggest box of chocolates or, at Easter, the largest egg.

The other thing about forecourts is many customers are making a hefty £30-plus purchase of petrol on their debit or credit card. If they see a tempting display of chocolates next to the till as they’re waiting to pay, they’re more likely to pick up a box – the transaction seems painless as it’s a few more quid on an already large bill.

Over 60 per cent of all Mother’s Day confectionery gifts are bought by men, and 45 per cent of these purchases are made on the Friday or Saturday before. Kraft Foods advises retailers to make things as easy as possible for the last-minute male shopper and helps with special spring gift-wrap designs for its Terry’s All Gold chocolates.

Says Easton Millar, trade relations manager, Kraft Foods: “Take a tip from the supermarkets and provide ready-made gift solutions, whether it’s offering a greeting card or a spring bouquet to complement the gift wrap. If you have space, support your display with merchandising and really make an event of your stock.”

There’s fresh new packaging on Black Magic and Dairy Box too, making them ideal gifts, while Quality Street is available sporting new Quality Mum and Quality Dad designs. Similarly, Celebrations large cartons are available personalised with ‘For a top mum’ or ‘For a top dad’ messages.

Cadbury Trebor Bassett is targeting young, busy mums with a spring campaign for Roses, in which it is investing £500,000 on ‘relationship marketing’ to over one million households. For retailers, promotional packs are available including pricemarked 300g and 500g cartons and 500g cartons with 25 per cent extra free. A 1.5kg Roses tin includes a free Cadbury Dairy Milk bar.

There’s similar activity on Heroes, with £2.49 and £3.49 pricemarked packs specifically designed to increase distribution to independent retailers. The packs themselves include two ‘much-requested’ additions: a Cadbury Dream white chocolate and a Cadbury Whole Nut chocolate.

There are limited edition pricemarked packs of Milk Tray too. The brand’s free-standing display hod has been redesigned for 2004 to make it easier to set up and more impactful in-store. Other single or double hods are available with interchangeable header kits communicating Mother’s Day and Easter.

When it comes to Easter, it seems small is definitely beautiful as filled eggs and mini eggs are big news.

Masterfoods had a really big hit last Easter with its Harry Potter Dragon eggs, sales of which gave the company massive growth in the filled eggs category. Needless to say the eggs will be available again this year, and the company is expanding the range with two new shops in the Diagon Alley range: Flourish & Botts and Quality Quidditch Supplies.

Double Cream has joined Nestlé’s filled egg range, comprising a lightly whipped, creamy centre containing roasted cocoa pieces in a Double Cream chocolate shell – rrp 38p.

There’s a new departure for Quality Street – the popular twistwraps are available in egg format. They come in a novelty egg box, rrp £3.99 or in a 200g carton, rrp £2.99.

Quality Street is not the only brand to get this treatment. Number one after dinner mint brand, After Eight, has been transformed into little eggs, available in a 200g egg box, rrp £3.99 or, like Quality Street eggs, in a 200g carton, rrp £2.99.

Even the good old Mars bar is getting in on the mini act with the launch of Mars mini eggs in 100g bags, rrp 99p.

New from Kraft Foods are Terry’s Chocolate Orange Segsations mini eggs in a choice of flavours, including milk chocolate, honeycomb crunch and white chocolate, all in a hanging bag for 99p. Segsations also gets its own shell egg.

Guylian has also launched individually wrapped mini eggs in three flavours, praline, crisp, orange cream and truffle with a rrp of £2.99, as part of its Opus range.

Cadbury, as brand leader in filled and mini eggs, is leaving nothing to chance and has combined filled and mini for a new format.

Cadbury Creme Egg minis have been developed as an ‘on the go snack’, described as a more manageable way to eat the popular filled egg, and to appeal to consumers who find the standard Creme Egg too sweet. Chris Morgan, customer relations director for Cadbury Trebor Bassett, explains: “Creme Egg already commands an enormous 70 per cent share of the filled egg market with as many as 14 million consumers buying into the brand. Although the brand has grown by 10 per cent over the past 12 months – it is now worth £43m – research has shown an opportunity to maximise this successful formula with new formats.”

Easter eggs with bits of candy in the shell were big hits in 2003. Cadbury enjoyed success with its Crunchie Nuggets and Fruit & Nuts offers and these will be joined by a Mini Egg with pieces of Mini Egg in the shell and Whole Nut with nuts in the egg shell.

Cadbury will also be offering new Giant Buttons, and Lord of the Rings Return of the King shell eggs, and for adults there is an expanded range of Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) eggs. These include CDM with shortcake biscuit and CDM Bubbly. Consumers get a CDM shell egg plus a large block of the relevant CDM chocolate in these packs.

Caroline Ashmead, product manager at Lindt, reckons the premium sector is where the growth will be this Easter: “Consumers are prepared to pay extra for high quality contents and packaging for adults as well as children’s gifts. After fiercely competitive price promotions from mainstream brands, retailers are demanding more premium products to satisfy all purchasing needs and benefit from the higher profit margins they offer,” she says.

Last Easter Lindt was the number one premium manufacturer in terms of value sales, and the company secured 51 per cent of the premium shell egg market.

Sales of its Gold Bunnies range hit nearly £4m, and once again, this Easter the 100g and 200g Gold Bunnies, Mini Gold Bunny five packs and Mini Gold Bunny egg are all available, along with some new lines. For consumers that really want to make a statement there is the 1kg Gold Bunny, sporting a hand-tied satin bow and a real bell for £29.99. At the other end of the scale there is a new 50g Gold Bunny, for £1.29 and a 100g White Gold Bunny, at £2.19, and

the range is completed with a new Gold Bunny family gift box and the Gold Bunny nest, both of which

retail at £4.99.

Lindt’s number one global brand Lindor will be backed by a £4.5m spend this spring, and it introduces two new products: mini flame eggs and a limited edition Lindor vanilla cornet, which has vanilla truffles covered in white chocolate. New Swiss Elegance and Swiss Connoisseurs eggs are offered for the more traditional market with an rrp of £14.99 and £19.99 respectively.

Guylian’s new Luxury Egg contains a 160g Easter egg, 125g Seashells, 100g La Trufflina and 100g Opus. Rrp is £9.99 and the egg comes in cases of four. Kevin Toms, sales and marketing director at Guylian UK, comments: “The Guylian collection creates an impression of both indulgence and expense, when in actual fact all of our products offer real value for money.”

Bendicks is backing the launch of its new Mingles egg with a £500,000 pre-Easter TV campaign. Bendicks Chocolate Collection also gets its own premium egg, including an assortment of traditional fruit creams, indulgent truffles and pralines, rrp £12.99. For consumers on a budget or looking for a quality token gift, there is the new 50g Chocolate Collection pack which comes in shelf-ready trays ideal for placing near the till. Rrp is £1.49.

Masterfoods is hoping to create a new category, ‘token gifting’, on the back of its Celebrations brand. The company says token gifts are eggs that can be given to adults as a token gesture of seasonal best wishes.

The range comprises two packs: Maltesers Teasers egg and the Galaxy Truffle egg. Each contains a small hollow egg together with a few of the relevant Celebrations twistwrap variant. Rrp is 99p.

Kinder has relaunched its Kinder Joy egg as Kinder Maxi Surprise, rrp £5.49, in an attempt to reinforce the ‘surprise’ concept of the product. Kinder Surprise itself is available in a new egg box presentation of six eggs, rrp £2.49. The current Kinder Surprise limited edition is Motocoyotes – coyotes on motorbikes.

Consumer awareness of the Kinder brand will be boosted by national TV, press and web campaigns.