Whether it’s a tub of your favourite twistwraps, an extra large Toblerone or a Chocolate Orange, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without chocolate. No wonder then that it’s the most important time of the year for chocolate sales.

Yes, the grocery multiples start piling up their £5 tubs of twistwraps in September and take the lion’s share of confectionery sales. However, the fact that chocolate is such an impulsive and expandable category means it can be a profitable one for independents too. Get your range and display right and shoppers will definitely be tempted to buy.

Advent calendars are a case in point. Of course, the grocery mults stock them, but quite often they’ve sold out by December 1 and many people don’t realise they need an advent calendar until then. That’s where you can come in and save the day. It’s a category worth investing in as IRI data reveals that sales of advent calendars have grown by 45% over the past five years, with premium advent sales almost trebling.

The Cadbury Dairy Milk Advent Calendar 90g is the best seller but there are plenty of other ones available such as the Maltesers Reindeer calendar, which was the third best seller last year.

Lauren George, trade and brand manager, at Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK, says the key to success in 2017 was the popularity of trade-up advents such as larger packs and premium quality advents, which drove basket spend. She believes Mars Wrigley will continue to fuel this growth with its new Celebrations advent calendar, which taps into the trade-up trend.

A new calendar from Mondelez that’s bound to be popular is the Cadbury Premier League one, which comes complete with an on-pack activation with daily Premier League games and goals.

Kinder launched its first-ever advent calendar last year and as a result added £2.2m to the category (Nielsen). It returns this year with two new additions the Kinder Mini Mix advent calendar and a Kinder Surprise Egg advent calendar.

Meanwhile, the Thorntons brand has a four-strong range: the Continental; Santa; The Snowman; and The Snowman and The Snowdog. Nielsen data reveals that these calendars added 21% value to the category last year, and Thorntons is looking to add an element of surprise to traditional advent calendars, with some of its chocolates now containing a fondant filling.

From Nestlé there’s a new Quality Street calendar (rrp £5), which contains two of every Quality Street sweet inside.

Nestlé is also looking to tap into the premium advent market with its new £10 Smarties 3D advent calendar pack, which contains four different Smarties products including mini cartons and twist-wrapped chocolate characters. Also new is the After Eight advent calendar, rrp £10. It’s a clock tower-shaped calendar, designed to appeal to adults looking for a gift-worthy advent calendar. It features seven different sweets, five of which are new and not found in any other After Eight pack.

Mondelez has upped the ante even more in the price stakes with its £10.99 Green & Blacks advent calendar. It’s the premium chocolate brand’s first ever advent calendar and it’s filled with dark, milk and praline chocolates.

According to IRI data, the popularity of confectionery at Christmas continues to grow and grow. Last year the category sold more than ever before with £24.6m more value sales than in 2017. Apparently sales in the early part of the Christmas season were key to this, accounting for £18m of the growth.

It’s typically seasonal impulse products that mark the start of the festive season for retailers and drive excitement into the confectionery category for shoppers. These are the brightly coloured, foil-wrapped items you’ll have by the till to tempt shoppers as they pay for their fuel and other bits and pieces.

Sales of these during the early part of the Christmas season are particularly important as they tend to be incremental to core confectionery sales.

At Mars Wrigley, they have the number one and number two selling treats at Christmas: the Maltesers Merryteaser Reindeer and the Merryteaser Mini-Reindeer sharing bags.

From Nestlé, the big news this year is that the white chocolate Milkybar polar bear will be joined by three new Christmassy characters: a snowman, seal and a snowy owl. Meanwhile the milk chocolate Smarties Penguin, complete with mini Smarties inside, will be joined by rudolph, a robin and Santa. Outers of both the Milkybar and Smarties characters will contain all four festive designs so shoppers can pick out their favourites. In addition, to help retailers space-wise, the outers have been reduced in width by 12%.

Twist and sell

Twistwraps are synonymous with Christmas no family gathering is complete without Celebrations, Heroes, Quality Street or Roses or all four. IRI data reveals that twistwraps generated over £220m last year, accounting for 28% of all sales. The category attracts over 50% of shoppers during the seasonal period, with 52% of households buying into it (over 14 million households). Last year twistwraps grew more than they had done for the previous five years, with value and volume sales up 6%. The category also brought in more incremental shoppers, with 80% of shoppers and £6m-worth of sales incremental (Kantar).

Celebrations led the way last year as the number one-selling tub and pouch brand (Nielsen). The tub is available with an rrp of £10.99 and the pouch at £4.99. The twistwraps are also available in a gift box and carton, both of which are great for gifting or sharing.

In 2017 sales of the Quality Street 720g tub grew by an impressive 11%. This year the tub has been revamped with an improved assortment and now features more chocolate sweets and fewer toffees and cremes.

Also available is the Quality Street 1.2kg tin. Last Christmas, sales of the tin grew 10% as it drove category value and brought in younger consumers to the brand. This Christmas the brand will once again be supported by a high-profile communications campaign. Last year the media campaign saw excellent results, with TV advertising reaching 17 million people and social media channels 16 million people.

Mondelz’s ’giving and sharing’ range includes the number one ’Thank You’ brand (IRI), Cadbury Roses, which turns 80 this year and is available in carton, tub and ’flower tub’ formats. There is also Cadbury Heroes which, after securing 11% growth last year (IPSOS), is launching a new tin in partnership with the Premier League. The new Cadbury Heroes Premier League Tin comes with a Game On QR code which, when scanned, takes consumers to a digital platform with games and prizes for all the family.

Boxed is big

Boxed chocolates remain the biggest segment at Christmas, worth £374m (IRI). Its success is due to the fact that it covers three big consumer needs: sharing, gifting and after dinner.

Mars Wrigley expects its recently launched Maltesers Truffles to go down well this Christmas.

Laura Edwards, Maltesers brand manager at Mars Wrigley, says: "We are convinced it will grow the category through being perfect for those special gifting occasions of which Christmas is the most important one. Retailers don’t want to miss the first festive opportunity to drive sales with what is set to be a consumer favourite for years to come."

Nestlé too has high hopes for a new product. KitKat Senses, its biggest launch of 2018, will be available in two new packs especially for Christmas. With an eye-catching Christmas tree- shaped design, the first new pack would be ideal as a festive table centrepiece. It contains the three KitKat Senses flavours (Hazelnut, Double Chocolate and Salted Caramel), with 24 chocolates in total. The second, smaller pack could be used as a stocking filler or tree decoration; it contains five chocolates also with a mix of all three flavours.

The launch of Senses has been supported by a £7m campaign across 2018 and will be back on TV in the build-up to Christmas.

Quality Street Matchmakers is a favourite with consumers at Christmas. The brand is benefiting from a strong six-year growth spell, and in 2017 achieved its highest ever Christmas sales, up 11%. What’s more, last year 6% of shoppers who bought Matchmakers were new to the brand (IRI).

Nestlé says that while Cool Mint and Zingy Orange remain the core flavours to stock, retailers with space should try stocking Salted Caramel, which performed extremely well in 2017. The company says this on-trend flavour also brings in younger consumers to the brand and category.

In 2017, Dairy Box was the fastest-growing inlaid boxed chocolates brand, up 17%, as shoppers enjoyed the brand’s revamped design and seven new chocolates that were added to the mix. Meanwhile Black Magic continued to be the leader in dark inlaid chocolate with its fiercely loyal customer base.

This Christmas the brands have two new packs called Temptations. The ideal size for a token gift, both packs contain a selection of twist-wrapped sweets and have an rrp of £1. Dairy Box Temptations includes Orange Sensation, Nutty Truffle and Dreamy Fudge chocolates. While Black Magic Temptations contains Midnight Truffle, Orange Sensation, Dreamy Fudge and Raspberry Heaven.

Over at Ferrero, Thorntons is introducing packaging redesigns across the Continental range, including Continental Dark, to highlight the premium, handcrafted chocolates inside.

Thorntons Christmas Selection boxes and Seasonal Collection Boxes will also feature a new design. In addition, the Thorntons Star Collection will have four new chocolates: a Milk Salted Fudge Star, a Dark Chocolate Truffle Star, a Milk Roast Almond & Hazelnut Star and a White Gingerbread Star.

Stocking fillers

Worth £17m, giant tubes are the ultimate traditional stocking filler. This year Nestlé’s giant tubes range, which includes Smarties, Milkybar and Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles, has been redesigned to look more ’Christmassy’ than ever with the aim of standing out better on shelf. New to the market for 2018 is the Orange Smarties Giant Tube, set to be a big seller thanks to consumer demand.

The Christmas novelty market is worth £71m (IRI). New from Nestlé are the 100g Milkybar polar bear and Smarties penguin dress-up hollow chocolate figures.

Thorntons is introducing a new figure to its novelties line up. Joining the popular Jolly Reindeer and The Snowman is the new Cheeky Elf. The launch will be accompanied by on-pack promotion giving shoppers the chance to win a magical trip to Lapland. To be in with a chance of winning, entrants must purchase a Thorntons Cheeky Elf and share a picture of it in a hiding place using the hashtag #ThorntonsElf.

Finally, the Kinder brand will continue to be supported digitally with a campaign across Facebook and YouTube. This invites families to share their one wish for Christmas and, for one lucky family, Kinder will make this wish come true.

Kinder is also adding new Surprise hollow figures. The new 36g figures will join Kinder’s existing range of novelties, including the Surprise Santa figure, which will feature a new Surprise toy.

latest lines

Maynards Bassetts Frosted Wine Gums are a new take on the classic Wine Gum flavours topped with tasty frosted coating and shaped like your favourite festive characters including a star, cracker, stocking, snowman, Father Christmas and Christmas tree. They are available in a 165g bag and a 495g jar.
Two of the most popular Barratt brands Fruit Salad and Wham are launched in a new tube format designed to drive impulse sales and appeal to consumers looking for stocking fillers.
New Dairy Box Temptations includes Orange Sensation, Nutty Truffle and Dreamy Fudge chocolates.
Big Bear Confectionery’s Just range has a new addition. Just Almonds capitalises on the growth in popularity of almonds in the UK market.
Thorntons Cheeky Elf 200g packs give shoppers the chance to win a magical trip to Lapland.
Storck advises retailers to try having a stocking filler fixture in-store to make it easier for shoppers. It says Toffifee 100g is ideal as a stocking filler. The brand is currently backed by a seven-week, £2.5m media campaign.

A magical line up

Jelly Belly Candy Company, in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, has launched a new chocolate and gummi confections range inspired by Harry Potter.
The range includes Chocolate Wand replicas of the main characters’ wands from the films: Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, which each come with a sheet of magic spells.
There are also new Chocolate House Crests and Chocolate Creatures. The latter is a 15g chocolate with crisped rice, moulded in the shape of one of six creatures or pets inspired by the Wizarding World: Aragog, Crookshanks, Fang, Fluffy, Hedwig or Thestral. Each comes with a collectible sticker.
There are five characters in the Gummi Creatures range (Fang, Fluffy, Buckbeak, Hedwig and Aragog), which come in different flavour combinations: Cherry/Lime, Cherry/Blueberry, Blueberry/Lime, Lime/Orange.
The new Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans Gift Box offers fans of all ages the experience of selecting from unusual jelly bean flavours such as Soap, Dirt, Black Pepper and Earwax.
Also in the range are Chocolate Frogs milk chocolate frogs with crisped rice. Each includes a lenticular collectible card featuring legendary witches and wizards from the Wizarding World. These come in mixed caddies of 24.
Meanwhile, new Jelly Slugs feature five intense flavours: Banana, Pear, Sour Cherry, Tangerine, Watermelon.

Retailer view Nick Lomax Westways Filling Station, Newquay:

"We try to stock a decent range of Christmas confectionery because we’re a rural site with quite a bit of transient traffic and people pop in to us and pick it up.
"We have a designated area to create seasonal interest and a bit of in-store theatre. We stock the main brands that people will be looking for but we do try to add something a little quirky too. Being left with festive stock after Christmas is a worry but if you get your ordering right it’s not too much of a problem."

Providing something different

Paul Hargreaves, chief executive at fine food distributor Cotswold Fayre, says that buying a brand that is not available in the supermarkets gives the impression that more care has gone into choosing the gift.
He points to The Daily Chocolate Teapot, which has really caught his customers’ imagination this year, as has the range from Classic Wheels gift range.
In addition he says shoppers are actively seeking seasonal favourites from abroad.

New formats for Toblerone

Toblerone is celebrating its 110th anniversary with some new additions.The range expansion includes a selection of new options for fans of the milk chocolate variety, as Toblerone launches in both a 200g milk chocolate block and a large 750g block, perfect for gifting. Furthermore, for Christmas there is a new sleeve on the 360g milk format featuring a gift tag, which can be personalised with the recipient’s name. This sleeve follows the success of Father’s Day and Easter packs, which were launched earlier this year. A further gifting pack featuring five 100g bars in milk, dark, fruit & nut and white flavours has also been added to the Toblerone line up.
The range expansion arrives as all-year-round gifting is growing by 2.7%, and gift blocks specifically are growing at 4% ahead of the gifting segment (One System data). Meanwhile, the Toblerone brand is growing 19% year-to-date, making it the second fastest-growing brand this year (IPSOS).
In addition, IPSOS data reveals that 88% of consumers have tried Toblerone and, when looking for a gift, 94% of them are sure that the recipient will love the product, thanks in part to the range of variants available. What’s more, the product has 95% brand awareness among consumers.
The launches will be supported by in-store activation at Christmas as part of the Discover the Tastes of Toblerone campaign.

Ferrero’s festive wins

Ferrero has enjoyed five years of consecutive growth during the festive period; last year saw the total brand grow by £8.6m (Nielsen). Sales of Ferrero’s entire boxed portfolio rose by 7.3%, with much of that due to the Thorntons brand, which returned to double-digit growth at 12% (MAT +2.5%).
Meanwhile, Ferrero Rocher experienced its sixth consecutive year of growth over the Christmas period last year, and Ferrero Pralines (incorporating Rocher, Collection and Raffaello) saw growth, with sales up by £2.9m. Ferrero Rocher T24 remains the number one all-year-round boxed SKU across the total market (Nielsen).
Ferrero novelties drove the biggest growth into the category at Christmas last year (+£2.4m), thanks in great part to the Grand Ferrero Rocher 125g (the third biggest SKU in the novelties category), which grew by over 20%, adding £390,000 to the category alone.
According to Ferrero, its brands will be ’unmissable’ this Christmas thanks to support via TV, social media, video on demand and sampling.
Thorntons, for example, will be backed by ’Pass the Love On’ themed support with a £2.4m spend across TV, video on demand, social, press and in-store activations. The ad will showcase Thorntons’ Continental range, which experienced exceptional sales at Christmas 2017, adding incremental growth to the brand (+12.6%).
Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, says: "Confectionery is one of the few categories where shoppers are willing to spend more money on products they love. It is important as a leading confectionery manufacturer to offer retailers products and ranges that help them to cater for the different types of festive shopping needs. Whether it’s to gift, to share or simply to treat and enjoy with loved ones, we know shoppers love Ferrero products and that they are a staple at Christmas."