Seasonal impulse confectionery should be the key focus for convenience retailers at Christmas. Nestlé UK & Ireland spokesperson, James Maxton, explains: "With 66% of sales incremental to all-year-round singles confectionery, it is the novelty of these products that attracts shoppers. They also act as a signpost for the Christmas season in store and therefore visibility, especially in the early part of the season, is key to maximising sales." Last year, according to Kantar World Panel data, three million extra shoppers bought into seasonal impulse, resulting in 20% value growth for the category. Shoppers also bought more packs (up 10.2%), more frequently (up 8.5%) and spent more money (up 3.6% per pack).

Maxton says that within the convenience channel, seasonal impulse is performing ahead of the total market with sales up 31%, accounting for 6% of total convenience Christmas sales.

"New products are driving this growth and are critical to the success of this segment. In 2013 they generated £12m-worth of sales, accounting for a huge 66% of total seasonal impulse sales," he explains.

The Quality Street My Green Bar was a big success for Nestlé last Christmas with 57% of shoppers who bought it new to the category, and the same percentage (303,000 households) were new to the Quality Street brand.

This year My Green Bar will be joined by another Quality Street favourite: My Orange Bar.

This consists of four orange crunch pieces and has a recommended retail price of 65p. The launch will be supported by activity on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Mondelez advises retailers to ’kick start’ seasonal sales through festive ’self-eats’. Nielsen data positions the company’s Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) Mousse Snowman vanilla as the number one self-eat in 2013, worth £3.4m.

No surprise then that it’s back this year along with a new chocolate variant.

Christmas is all about kids, which means the total kids seasonal impulse category continues to grow. It’s actually up 116% (from £4.4m in 2012 to £9.5m in 2013) and now accounts for 53% of total seasonal impulse sales. Both new shoppers and repeat buyers are driving this growth. A 14% increase in penetration now means nine million households buy into the category.

Nestlé’s products in this category are the Smarties Little Choc Penguin (rrp 65p) and the Milkybar Polar Bear Cub (also at 65p). From Mondelez there’s CDM Freddo popping candy, available in four festive designs.

Do the twist

Twistwrap remains one of the key categories for retailers at Christmas and despite the grocery multiples dominance, many c-store retailers still report strong sales. Twistwraps are well worth considering as 8.5 million households buy them early in the Christmas season, with nearly 50% returning to buy more (Kantar).

While the Quality Street 350g gift carton (rrp £4.38) remains the ’must stock’ pack, there is a new 200g carton (rrp £2) that’s exclusive to the convenience channel.

"With shoppers who give twistwrap confectionery as a gift spending 71p more per shopping trip than those who buy it to share, packs for gifting are important to the category," says Maxton, adding that the £2 price point of the new carton makes it an attractive complementary gift.

Over at Cadbury, Roses will be available in a more ’giftworthy’ rose-shaped tub while Terry’s Chocolate Orange Sensations benefits from a new design.

Maxton says that while twistwraps are an excellent footfall driver, the boxed chocolates category has been benefiting from increased premiumisation, which in turn has meant increased margins for retailers.

Boxed chocolates for sharing account for 54% of all boxed chocolates sales. And this segment is relevant across the full 20 weeks of the Christmas season, because of the growth of the family night in occasion.

"The early season is really important for sharing boxed and particularly everyday sharing chocolates as they are bought on average three times across the whole season. Retailers should therefore stock up early to capitalise."

One of the star performers of 2013 within ’sharing’ boxed chocolates was Quality Street Matchmakers up 31% in value, and the fastest-growing brand within the top 10 everyday sharing boxed chocolates. Maxton says more people bought Matchmakers, more often and at a higher price per pack in 2013, and the brand was particularly good at attracting young shoppers to the category.

Premium packs

Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, says for forecourts, the big opportunity is premium packs for gifting. And its latest line Ferrero Golden Gallery definitely fits the bill. The luxurious box contains individually-wrapped chocolates including Ferrero Rocher, Ferrero Rondnoir, Ferrero Cappuccino, Ferrero Manderly, Mon Cheri, Ferrero Tenderly Nougat and Ferrero Tenderly White. It is available in two sizes: a 22-pack rrp £7.99 and a 45-pack, rrp £14.99.

Boorer recommends stocking Golden Gallery alongside Ferrero Collection sales of which rose by 7% last Christmas to drive incremental purchases.

He says Christmas 2013 was another "golden success" for Ferrero, with sales at their best ever at 9.3% value growth in a relatively flat market (Nielsen).

"Improved shopper outlook led to consumers trading up on the little things, with 32% looking for something new and different. In 2013, 47% of consumers planned to buy chocolate gifts for Christmas and this is set to increase this year, as confidence continues to rise.

"We are really proud of our brands’ scale, and are committed to developing an all year round range that also caters for the explosion of special occasions during the festive season. Retailers can maximise incremental opportunities by stocking our seasonal SKUs alongside our top sellers, Rocher 16-pack and Rocher 24-pack and using our premium gold foil point of sale. Retailers who have used our displays during seasonal events have generated uplifts of up to +128%."

Meanwhile, Raffaello, which is currently worth £2.3m and growing at 59.6% sales (Nielsen), is getting a relaunch with new packs and a new positioning as an ’everyday premium treat’. There’s a new 150g box as well as a new four-pack.

Ferrero is backing its brands to the tune of £7m pre-Christmas. There will be 12 weeks of TV, cinema and video-on-demand advertising for Rocher starting at the end of October. Featuring the tagline "Make your moments golden", the activity aims to drive awareness and trial among potential shoppers. There will be outdoor support for Raffaello running for four weeks from mid November while Ferrero Collection will be on TV throughout December.

There will be extensive sampling too as Ferrero communicates to consumers the quality of its products.

Consumer Facts

97% of the population buys confectionery over the Christmas period
The average shopper buys it 14 times in the build-up to Christmas
The average shopper spends £46, which is 31% of their annual confectionery spend and equivalent to 6kg of sweets
86% of Christmas chocolate is bought as a gift or to share
44% of Christmas chocolate is purchased for Christmas Day itself
Source: Kantar/Nielsen

Sweeter Stuff

Not everyone wants chocolate at Christmas and manufacturers have cottoned on to this with seasonal sugar confectionery packs.
Swizzels enjoyed great success with its sugar lines last Christmas. It had the number one selling sugar confectionery tin, Sweet Shop Favourites, which is available again this year. But there are new lines too.
Parma Violets joins the gift tube line up as does a One Direction branded gift tube, which is filled with mini Love Heart rolls featuring messages and icons chosen by One Direction fans.
Mondelez’s Trio Tub sold well last year too so this time around the Bassetts Trio Tub and Maynards Trio Tub is joined by a new Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts tub. Also from Bassetts are two new giant gifting jars featuring Bertie Bassett and Bubbles, the yellow jelly baby.
New from Nestlé is the Rowntree’s sharing tub which is filled with Fruit Pastilles, Jelly Tots and Randoms, while Storck UK has unveiled its first ever assortment gift pack for Werther’s. Called Werther’s Original Golden Mix, it contains butter candies, creamy filling, caramel fudge, chewy toffee and chocolate éclair varieties. It comes in a 380g gift box, rrp £5.

Look out for:

Ferrero Rocher and Raffaello star tree decorations, rrp £1.99.
Toblerone 60g triangle a thinner, easier-to-eat version of the triangular chocolate which is available in a clip strip of 12.
Hancocks Cash & Carry’s pick ’n’ mix. New Christmas lines include santa & elves, star- shaped Snowies, gingerbread men and liquorice candy canes.
The Munchies Supertube (rrp £4). This looks like a giant tube of the chocolates but contains three 100g bags.
Kinder figures in a three and a six pack rrp £1.25 and £1.99 respectively.
The Dairy Box mini pack (rrp £1.49). Containing just five chocolates, it is ideal as a token gift or gesture.
The Kit Kat Chunky Collection (rrp £5). This contains a variety of Chunky bars: four milk, two orange and two peanut, and is described as an ideal gift for teen boys or men.
CDM Marvellous Creations jelly popping candy which joins the Cadbury stocking selection while Bitsa Wispa makes its debut in a tube format.
The Aero Milk Bubble (rrp £4.99). This is a giant hollow Aero milk chocolate bubble filled with milk chocolate Aero Bubbles.

Retailer View

Adam Hogwood, Morrison’s Budgens of Broadstairs, Kent:
"As soon as Halloween is over, we start putting out Christmas lines the token gesture type products to sow seeds in our customers’ minds that we sell these things.
"Thankfully a lot of confectionery suppliers are now on our side and are producing convenience exclusive lines. For instance, we’ve got Cadbury Roses Golden Barrels and Strawberry Cream chocolates in 90g bags, price-marked at £1 and we’ll have those on clip strips. Last year we tried the boxes of just creams and toffees; sales were okay but not great. I think these 90g bags will be much more accessible.
"There’s a new flat Toblerone that’s a 60g mini tablet, which retails at £1, and we’ll have those on clip strips around the shop too. It’s good to have novelties and lines people won’t find anywhere else. One product that I think will do really well is the Quality Street Giant Strawberry, which is a plastic tub wrapped to look like a giant sweet. We’ll also have the £5 tubs of Celebrations, Roses, Quality Street and Heroes.
"We did really well on Christmas confectionery last year and my advice would be to go big and bold and don’t put your stock out too late or you’ll miss out on sales. Another thing we did was clear off the till point and put out seasonal editions of Cadbury’s Fingers we sold 280 boxes in a week just because they were there in front of people and at a good price in this case £1."