In the lead up to last Christmas, Quality Street lovers got the chance to fill tins with just their favourite twistwapped chocolates thanks to a ’Choose your favourites’ pop-up at John Lewis department stores. This year, as well as ’Choose your favourites’, shoppers at John Lewis’s flagship London store can choose custom KitKats from a choice of nearly 1,500 flavour combinations. According to brand owner Nestlé, the KitKats will be one of this year’s ’must-have’ presents but they come at quite a price up to £14 a bar. That seems pretty expensive for four fingers of chocolate but such is the popularity of chocolate as a Christmas gift (according to Deloitte’s Christmas Survey 2018, chocolate is the number one present for adults), they will probably sell well.

Kantar Worldpanel stats reveal that last year Christmas confectionery grew ahead of the total grocery market, delivering £910m of sales up 4.4% in value terms on the previous year and equating to £38m-worth of additional sales. And apparently the number of households buying Christmas confectionery continues to grow, generating an incremental £7.5m-worth of sales in 2018.

Advent calendars

For many households, December wouldn’t be the same without at least one advent calendar. According to Nielsen Scantrack data, the advent calendar sector saw impressive growth of nearly 15% last year. IRI data values the advent category at £47m and reveals that it has more than doubled in value over the past five years, with premium advent sales, in particular, doing well.

Both Ferrero and Mondelez report that their calendar sales grew ahead of the category in 2018 so they are definitely worth considering.

At Ferrero, the company is refreshing the look of its 135g Kinder calendar and is also launching a Thorntons Cheeky Elf advent calendar, which comes in a book format. There is also an improved Thorntons Continental calendar, with 25 days of chocolate and Ferrero has a new Ferrero Collection calendar, which includes Rocher, Raffaello and Rondnoir chocolates.

At Mondelez, there is a new Cadbury 3D advent calendar, which contains Cadbury Dairy Milk, Buttons, Freddo, Chomp, Fudge and Curly Wurly alongside a selection of fun stickers. And the brand has partnered with the new The Angry Birds Movie 2 to launch an advent calendar that combines chocolate treats with toys and stickers.

For adults there is the new Green & Black’s Organics advent calendar, which includes several of the brand’s flavours in mini dark and milk bars. And Mondelez is reinventing its Cadbury Heroes Advent Calendar this year with 24 days of challenges, adventures and trivia behind each door alongside a Cadbury Heroes chocolate. Consumers can scan the QR code behind the first door to access the challenges via a web-based app. Sales of the Cadbury Heroes advent calendar grew by 12% last year (Nielsen), so Mondelez expects its return, with added extras, will help increase sales even further.

At Nestlé, there’s a new design for its Quality Street premium advent calendar, with each calendar containing two of every Quality Street sweet.

Walk into any Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s or Tesco store at this time of year and you’ll be greeted with huge piles of tubs of Celebrations, Heroes, Quality Street and Roses all at knockdown prices. According to Kantar Worldpanel data, two out of every three shoppers buy into the category, and it is growing in value by 2.7%. This means forecourt stores shouldn’t ignore these products completely, they just need to order in carefully, focusing on key lines.

Mars Wrigley, for instance, says its 650g Celebrations Tub is a number one best seller. And Nestlé says convenience retailers should focus on its Quality Street 240g carton and 650g tub. The company says the brand drove two-thirds of category growth in 2018, with sales up 11.7%, and attracting 1.1 million new shoppers of all ages.

This year Quality Street is unveiling a new look, which Nestlé says gives it ’a distinctive, premium and modern identity that existing and potential consumers have said they love’. The selection also includes a new limited-edition Chocolate Caramel Brownie sweet, which has proven popular with younger consumers.

A £3m media campaign will support the brand in 2019, focusing on the social and digital channels, which performed well in 2018.

Over at Mondelez, Cadbury Heroes is marking two decades on the market with a special-edition 20th Birthday Tin. The purple and gold birthday cake design not only celebrates the brand’s special anniversary but also plays on the most common re-use for the tins as a cake tin. The limited-edition 800g tins, retail at £9.99.

In addition, Cadbury Roses is unveiling a new gifting tin this Christmas as part of the brand’s partnership with watch and jewellery designer Olivia Burton; plus there are two new gifting cartons for the brand: 115g and 275g, rrp £2.49 and £4.49 respectively.


Nestlé believes there is a huge opportunity to drive excitement in the novelties category, which it says has been stagnant due to a lack of innovation. In 2018, it was worth £74m (IRI data), which is almost the same as five years earlier, when it was worth £73m.

Nestlé reckons it can shake up the category with its new Smarties Penguins. There are five characters, all of which have Mini Smarties inside, and there is a range of sizes. An impulse version is available both as a single (rrp 65p) and a multipack of four (rrp £2). There is also a small 50g novelty size penguin (rrp £1.49) and a 94g full chocolate figure (rrp £2.49). Both make great stocking fillers or small gifts. Also available are 175g penguins, complete with real detachable bowties (rrp £3.99) and a gifting pack, which includes a 94g penguin plus three 18.5g baby penguins (rrp £3.99).

A £600,000 media campaign will support the launch.

Over at Ferrero, Kinder is launching the Kinder Mix Reindeer Headband, which comprises a fun reindeer headband together with a selection of Kinder Mini chocolates. There are also two new Cadbury Dairy Milk Moneyboxes. The colourful 100% recyclable tins contain either Cadbury Dairy Milk Freddo Faces or Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons and can be re-used as a moneybox to keep all year round.

Boxed chocolates is the biggest segment at Christmas, worth £460m, and growing by 3.8%. The category, which is split into sharing and gifting, is changing, with sharing now accounting for nearly three quarters of consumption occasions and growing by 8%.

According to Nielsen, there are three shopper missions in the mainstream boxed market, dictated by who you are buying for: Everyone’s Favourite, a treat that’s all about variety usually a ’safe’ gift for someone you don’t know that well; Someone’s Favourite, a more sentimental purchase that shows you know what someone really likes such as a single flavour; and Special Someone’s Favourite, which is an indulgent and more special gift for someone you know well and want to treat.

Last year, Mars Wrigley introduced Maltesers Truffles, which the company said was perfect for ’someone special’. Emma Thornton, celebrate portfolio director at Mars Wrigley UK, says the product was so popular that it became the number one contributor to category growth last Christmas. "This year, we anticipate a further 30% growth on Maltesers Truffles, so this is certainly not one for retailers to miss in their range," she explains.

For this year, Mars is expanding the range to include Maltesers Truffles Ultimate Gift Boxes, which have been designed for dinner party occasions. Says Thornton: "With 31% of Brits citing luxurious packaging as something they’d pay more for, this premium offering is set to impress with a new rectangular box design, inspired by the champagne category.

"The box contains 50 truffles and will be available in-store during the festive season, and online all year round."

Meanwhile, Ferrero is revamping its Classic Collection, giving the range a premium and contemporary look as well as offering shoppers a range of pack sizes to suit different gifting occasions.

There are three core pack sizes (150g, rrp £4; 262g, rrp £6.50; and 449g, rrp £10). Ferrero says retailers will feel the benefit of the range, thanks to a strong promotional pricing strategy that offers a great sales return.

Levi Boorer, customer development director at Ferrero, says: "We know that Thorntons is much loved by shoppers for its expertise and heritage in crafting chocolates with the nation’s most-loved flavours. The Classic Collection will now become more accessible to shoppers with a variety of pack sizes that suit every gifting occasion and is a perfect way for them to ’Pass the Love’ on to their loved ones."

Finally, Kantar research reveals that over half of consumers start shopping for food and groceries well in advance of Christmas to help them spread the cost. It’s crucial therefore that retailers build a range for these shoppers now to avoid missing out on the first Christmas sales. Apparently 90% of shoppers who buy early in the season return to purchase again. And they are particularly valuable as they spend an average £29.41 compared to the £11.23 of mid/late season shoppers.

new products

Ferrero is building on the successful performance of its 100g Kinder Surprise egg last Christmas, when it saw growth of 126%, making it now worth over £1.6m (Nielsen). This year the product will feature new Polar Bear toys with great ’playability’, including water shooting and colour-changing features.
Quality Street Matchmakers enjoyed growth of 13% last Christmas. For this year there is a new Gingerbread flavour, which joins Cool Mint, Zingy Orange and Salted Caramel.
Nestlé’s popular Giant Tubes range has two new additions: Rowntree’s Randoms and Rowntree’s Randoms Squish’ems. There is also a new Randoms sharing tub which contains Randoms, Squish’ems and Sours. Rrp is £6.99.
Cadbury Dairy Milk Little Robins are available in two variants Original and Daim. Rrp is £1.49 and they come packed 22 to a case.
New for 2019 is the Cadbury Darkmilk selection box which contains bars of Original, Salted Caramel and Roasted Almond flavours. The 340g box retails at £5.95.

new products

The new Kinder Mix Reindeer Headband comprises a fun reindeer headband together with a selection of Kinder Mini Bueno, Kinder Mini Chocolate and Kinder Mini Chocolate with Cereals.
Maltesers Festive Favourites contains a selection of products including new Maltesers Buttons and Maltesers Reindeers in a handy gift pouch.
Thorntons’ new Continental Winter Markets box offers ’rich and evocative flavours from every corner of Europe’ and includes special-edition flavours for 2019 such as Italian Panforte, Dutch Speculoos and Clementine Caramel.
Quality Street has a new, more premium look and includes a new limited-edition Chocolate Caramel Brownie sweet, which has proven popular with younger consumers. A £3m media campaign will support the brand. Nestlé says convenience retailers should focus on its Quality Street 240g carton and 650g tub.
Mondelez expects the new Cadbury Dairy Milk Orange Snowman to attract new consumers with sales incremental to the current range. Rrp is 65p.

Retailer view

"Christmas confectionery is not a massive category for us any more but we do okay. Spar run a lot of offers and we carry those. People stock up through December but our site is opposite BAE Systems and they close over Christmas so trade slows down a bit. However, that said, we are open on Christmas Day and are busy then with people after items they’ve forgotten such as tonic water or cheese. Many are also buying last-minute Christmas presents which is often chocolate in some shape or form."