Last Easter was not the best one for retailers and that’s because it came really early. Consequently sales were down. However the good news for next Easter is that it’s three weeks later with Easter Sunday on April 12. So that gives you 21 extra days to sell chocolate eggs. And despite the credit crunch with consumers watching what they spend, chocolate is a treat that will still be affordable for most people. And it seems that even those watching their waistlines throw caution to the wind at Easter time. Indeed new research commissioned by Mars has found that Easter is the most permissible time of year for eating chocolate.

Mars’ trade relations manager Bep Sandhu says: "Easter is chocolate to most people unlike Christmas, where it forms only part of the occasion. The egg is iconic and the giving and receiving of eggs is central to Easter for many consumers because Easter has such strong nostalgic overtones of childhood."

The Mars research found that a shopper’s first thought when buying an egg is who they are buying it for. "Shoppers will have a strict budget for each person. Typically, the closer that person is to them, the more they will spend so most people will buy their mums or wives the most expensive egg," explains Sandhu.

The second decision is brand. "Brands clearly are what drives the purchase. As eggs are a gift, people will buy what they know the recipient likes and this will normally be well-known and trusted brands. The gift-worthiness of Easter eggs has been reduced as prices have been driven down in the multiples, therefore consumers are trading up for those ’special’ purchases."

The Mars research also found that consumers are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the number of products on offer and don’t understand how the fixture is laid out. This is clearly not good when you consider that 60% of purchase decisions are made at the fixture.

To help with this problem Mars has reduced its range from 28 lines to 19.

Three new products have been added to the line up. The Malteaster bunny is a limited-edition milk chocolate bunny with a crunchy and creamy Maltesers centre. Aimed primarily at 25-44-year-old women, it will be supported by a £1m spend.

Maltesers & Friends have been updated and rebranded as Mars & Friends in a 180g bag. Mars says the products should be sold in partnership with Galaxy mini eggs.

Then there’s the new Galaxy All Block Collection egg which comes in a compact, stylish gift box, complete with gift tag. Although aimed at the premium end of the market, it offers great value as it contains almost 600g of chocolate. It comprises a 200g hollow egg, 150g Galaxy milk, 120g Galaxy raisins, almonds & hazelnut and 125g Galaxy dark. Rrp is £9.99.

Sandhu comments: "This egg is perfect for retailers who are short of space as it is compact compared to many other eggs of this price on the market. It will offer a high return versus eggs at a lower selling price for the space on shelf. The packaging design is also very strong and aims to bring back the feeling of giving a special gift to loved ones at Easter."

The big news from Nestlé is the launch of the Aero filled egg. The company’s UK trade communications manager, Graham Walker, says there’s nothing like it on the market as it delivers "a pure chocolate hit".

It’s filled with bubbly Aero chocolate and Nestlé hopes it will appeal to younger consumers (16-34-year-olds). Rrp is 40p.

Also new are Smarties Mini Eggs and Milkybar Mini Eggs in 100g pouches, rrp 85p. Walker reckons these should sell well in forecourts where bagged products traditionally do well.

Nestlé also has two new small eggs: the Milkybar Shaker Egg which is filled with white chocolate drops (rrp £1.69), and the Smarties Shaker Egg (rrp £1.59).

Then there’s Bluebell the new Milkybar cow. The 100g hollow chocolate cow has a rrp of £1.99. Also new is the Quality Street adult egg where the sweets have gone back inside the chocolate shell, and the Kit Kat Senses mug egg.

Walker firmly believes that forecourt traders can have a very successful Easter providing they focus on a tight core range that’s appropriate to their shopper profile. He says filled and mini eggs are the big winners for forecourts as they are pure impulse purchases and are incremental to countline confectionery sales. "Take the Smarties filled egg for example. It offers a big incremental sales opportunity with very little cannibalisation from tubes," he explains.

Nestlé will be providing a full range of pos including a dumpbin just for filled eggs and one for filled/mini eggs.

Meanwhile Cadbury’s Creme Eggs will be back on TV from January 1. No forecourt should be without these as they outsell even the Mars bar (two to one) during the Easter season.

Last Easter Cadbury launched its Eggheads range of unboxed eggs exclusively through Tesco and they were such a success that for 2009 they will be available across the trade. The company says they brought new people into the shell egg category and, with their limited packaging/green credentials, particularly appealed to younger and more upmarket consumers.

Another success for Cadbury in 2008 was its Easter Egg Trails and these will be repeated in 2009. The company invested £1m in the activity which saw Easter egg hunts being held at 200 National Trust properties across the UK with 600,000 people attending. Thirty million packs will communicate the trails in 2009.

Two of Cadbury’s eggs get redesigns for 2009. Caramel has a more feminine look and its medium size contains two Caramel-filled eggs while the Cadbury Dairy Milk egg has a redesign that emphasises the chocolate’s ’glass and a half’ recipe.

The Cadbury novelty Chick has a redesign too with an on-pack message communicating the fact that the hollow figure contains chocolate buttons.

Before Wispa was reintroduced, Twirl was the UK’s biggest-selling countline bar and, to appeal to its army of fans, Cadbury is launching a large Twirl egg complete with three of the chocolate bars. And for all those Wispa fans, there’s a new large Wispa egg which comes with three bars.

Meanwhile, Jack Pipe, convenience sales customer director at Kraft Foods, says Terry’s Chocolate Orange egg features giftworthy packaging that has real shelf appeal. The orange-flavoured milk chocolate egg is paired with the Chocolate Orange ball.

The Toblerone egg is equally appealing to customers looking for a grown-up, high quality gift. In addition to a milk chocolate egg, the 2009 egg features three 50g Toblerone milk tablets. Pipe says: "Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Toblerone are supported by a media investment of £2.3m and £3.5m respectively. Stocking proven performing ranges like these will be key this year, as customers on tight budgets look for a brand they know and love for the best value gift."

Meanwhile Lindt will be supporting its popular Gold Bunny in the run up to Easter with a £2.5m investment including two weeks of TV from the end of March. New to the range is the Gold Bunny and four chocolate-filled carrots. Rrp is 4.99.

And specifically developed for the wholesale channel is a pack of eight 100g Gold Bunnies. The Bunnies are placed in a specially-designed tray which has a clear PET hood, so both retailers and consumers can see what they are buying.

AC Nielsen figures from last Easter revealed that the Lindor filled egg enjoyed growth of 33%. The eggs come in milk and dark chocolate varieties. Rrp is 59p. They are available in either a display tray of 48 or a dumpbin which can hold up to 250 eggs.

New to the Lindor range is the 322g Lindor Shell egg, which comes with eight Lindor filled eggs. Rrp is £9.99. Then there’s the new 285g Lindor Shell egg, which comes with Lindor milk chocolate filled balls. Rrp is £7.99.

Finally, new from Ferrero is the Ferrero Rocher Bunny (rrp £4.99), which is a rabbit-shaped container filled with 13 chocolates. Also from Ferrero Rocher is a £9.99 boxed egg which comprises a milk chocolate egg with real hazelnut pieces and eight chocolates.


=== Down the cash and carry ===

Hancocks senior buyer Jonathan Summerley reckons shoppers will be increasingly looking to treat themselves with something inexpensive, and confectionery will be one of the most popular solutions.

For 2009, the cash and carry company will once again exclusively stock a Cadbury’s Creme Egg display unit, costing £18.70 and filled with 72 eggs. Says Summerley: "We would urge every retailer to buy one of these units at the beginning of the season as they really provide great impact and in fact cost less per egg (26p instead of 29p).

"The unit can sit on the counter and be refilled as the season continues. This will be our third year of selling this exclusively; sales have traditionally been extremely strong so we know it works well for our customers."

He also suggests that Kinder Surprise eggs be considered in any selection of filled eggs for the spring season.

"Even though they can be purchased all year round, they offer the perfect token gift for children. Featuring them at this key time of year will ensure that you are maximising your sales. In fact we understand that 80% of Kinder Surprise eggs are sold during Easter."


=== Top Tips ===

* Simply by focusing on availability and making sure fast-selling products have plenty of space on shelf, retailers will notice a significant difference in their sales, and likewise their profits.

* Retailers should make sure they stock the best-selling brands and keep an eye out on the big marketing campaigns.

* In-store point-of-sale will draw consumers’ attention to the display therefore driving incremental sales.

* Use off-fixture displays located in areas of high customer traffic to maximise sales of impulse items.

Source: Lindt


=== Packing it in ===

The major manufacturers are all keen to communicate the reductions in packaging across their Easter ranges. For retailers this reduced packaging means "better shelf utilisation" or, put simply, smaller packs taking up less space on shelves.

Nestlé, for example, says it is the first manufacturer to remove plastic inserts from the majority of its shell eggs. Instead of the plastic inserts, Nestlé is now using a fully recyclable card tray to secure the eggs in their boxes. Nestlé will be supporting its packaging changes with an ad campaign in The Sun, Mirror and Daily Mail.

Meanwhile Mars has reduced the carton weight on its medium eggs by 42% and the plastic insert weight by 35%. It has also moved all the remaining range of eggs (except Galaxy Premium Egg) to 100% recycled cardboard.

Cadbury has been awarded the Best Green Packaging prize at this year’s Green Awards for its unboxed Eggheads range. The company has also reduced the plastic in its boxed egg range and the cardboard used in the secondary packaging.

Lindt has reduced the packaging in its two new shell eggs by approximately 25% for 2009. And Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Toblerone eggs will highlight the new Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation to reassure customers that the packaging material has been sourced responsibly. The foil, carton and plastic insert on the two products are 100% recyclable and packs will feature a website to help consumers find their nearest recycling facility.