Love it or loathe it, Christmas is not that far away. In fact it’s probably little more than 80-odd days away. You might think the grocery mults have got Christmas sewn up and stitched you up in the process but your customers will expect at least a smattering of seasonal packs. Plus many of them will rely on you if they’ve forgotten the cranberry sauce or cream to go with the Christmas pudding.

When it comes to cranberry sauce, Ocean Spray is in fact the number one condiment brand at Christmas (IRI data).

It is being relaunched in time for this Christmas with an improved recipe, a premium new jar and look, and a "category exclusive" easy-open lid.

The new and improved wholeberry and smooth cranberry sauce recipes now contain 50% more fruit, while the new Orbit easy-open lid, has been designed to tackle the age-old problem of opening twist caps.

As for Christmas pudding, there’s a new branded entrant into the category courtesy of biscuit brand Fox’s. Following consumer research which revealed that many families find the traditional festive favourite too heavy and overly alcoholic, Fox’s has developed a Christmas pudding recipe that’s more like a cake. It’s being manufactured by Matthew Walker.

There are two sizes: the family-sized 454g dessert is going into the multiples; while an individual 100g pudding is available to the independent trade.

Moving on, and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without lots of snacks to share. UB has plenty of new snack packs for this year. The Big Hoops & Stars sour cream & chive flavour Christmas caddy has a recommended retail price (rrp) of £3.45. Nick Stuart, commercial manager at UBUK, says: "These caddies really are a must-stock for convenience retailers, as they are now worth in excess of £11m having been bought by over 3.5 million people in 2010 (Nielsen data)."

There are two new additions to the KP nut range: jumbo sweet chilli and maple syrup flavour cashews. Both come in 175g pouch packs, with a rrp of £4.33.

Meanwhile, the packaging for the KP frosted nuts and KP Christmas caddies now features a Father Christmas hat resting on the KP logo and sparkles to improve the stand out on shelf. All the Christmas nut mixes and caddies have been aligned at the £4.33 price point.

Christmas turkey and sausage & crispy bacon varieties join the Pringles line up for Christmas. It’s important for forecourt retailers to stock up for Christmas as Sian Davies, Pringles assistant brand manager at P&G, says that 40% of annual Pringles sales are made around this time of year.

"Pringles is actually the only crisps and snacks brand to see a value share peak at Christmas (Kantar Worldpanel), so it represents a great opportunity for increased snacks sales and profits."

As well as the seasonal variants, new 190g ’Big Sharing Packs’ are now available.

In biscuits UB offers new McVitie’s Temptations, rrp £8 and McVitie’s Classic Collection biscuit assortment, rrp £8.80. And back by popular demand is the McVitie’s Jaffa Cake Yard. According to AC Nielsen, it was the fastest-growing branded seasonal sweet cake product last Christmas. The 750g carton has a rrp of £6.

Fox’s Biscuits too has an impressive line-up, including Fox’s Fabulously Special Selection with a rrp of £12. The company also has an unusual stocking filler: Fox’s Mini Party Rings stocking filler. Rrp is £1.59. And it has two individual gifts: cream-filled chocolate biscuits and chocolate-covered biscuits. Rrp is £3.99.

AC Nielsen figures reveal that Christmas is the number one seasonal opportunity for cakes. UB is taking its Temptations biscuit brand into the cake market with three new lines. Temptations Swirl is chocolate sponge filled with chocolate cream, covered in dark chocolate. The cakes come in packs of six. The Temptations Cake Bar is chocolate sponge layered with white cream, topped with chocolate sauce and covered in milk chocolate. This comes in packs of five. Finally, Temptations Digestive Slices have a digestive biscuit base with sultanas topped with milk chocolate available in either orange or mint flavour. They are sold in a six-pack. Rrp for all three lines is £1.99.

Onto soft drinks and, according to Selena Taylor, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), families like to use Christmas to show off their favourite brands and Coca-Cola is obviously one such brand. Following the success of 2010’s fairy-lit Christmas truck tour across Britain, Coca-Cola will be visiting more towns and cities in 2011 with its iconic trucks in November and December, in a bid to create excitement and anticipation in the lead-up to Christmas.

For many people Christmas ’officially’ starts when the Coca-Cola ’Holidays are coming’ TV ad hits screens. This year, Coca-Cola has a multi-million pound marketing investment including TV, digital and an in-store communication plan.

There will also be targeted point-of-sale for retailers and limited-edition Christmas packaging featuring Santa will be available across Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero.

Schweppes mixers and lemonade are an integral part of shoppers’ purchasing habits at this time of year with 1.5 million shoppers preferring to only buy Schweppes at Christmas, contributing £4.5m to the overall Schweppes consumer spend (Kantar Worldpanel.

This Christmas there is limited edition themed packaging across a range of Schweppes SKUs.

Finally, for those of your customers looking for something festive to keep them going in the lead-up to Christmas, Ginsters has four special-edition lines.

The range Christmas Cracker, cranberry, Wensleydale & bacon and prawn cocktail sandwiches together with turkey, bacon & cranberry pasty is in store from November 2.

Retailer view

Jonathan James, James Graven, Cambs

"In Ely, ours is the only forecourt to open on Christmas Day. We’re open from 10am to 2pm and we’re always very busy. Cigarettes and batteries are the big sellers but sometimes people have run out of veg. There are a lot of distress purchases.

"When it comes to Christmas packs things like selection packs of chocolate we buy to sell out because we don’t want to be left with them afterwards."

Festive fancies

Traditional gingerbread specialist Image on Food’s Christmas range includes Percy the Christmas Penguin and Snowy the Snowman cookie pop. Recommended retail prices for the products range from £1.49 to £2.79.

Lurpak is using its inner-foils to inspire consumers this Christmas. Throughout November and December consumers will discover two inner-foil messages reminding them that Christmas and seasonal meals are important and should be made the best way they can be.

Air Wick’s Touch of Luxury range includes seasonal fragrance mulled wine & cinnamon apple in an aerosol, electrical plug-in, Freshmatic autospray, Crystal Air and a candle.

Specialist confectionery cash and carry chain Hancocks will be holding its Christmas Two Day Extra Discount event on November 6 and 7. Its festive range has price points from 25p to £75, covering everything from tree decorations and advent calendars to stocking fillers and gifts.

There will be a selection of Christmas stock deals across the WKD range. Christmas-themed point-of-sale kits containing posters, wobblers and door vinyls will be available free to all callers to WKD’s POS Hotline (0800 917 3450) from early November.

Check out two seasonal gifts from Tetrosyl. The Triplewax Valeting Gift Pack contains shampoo and polish, a sponge and cloth all in a zip-up bag. While Bluecol’s new Winter Power Pack contains everything drivers need to keep them motoring in the cold winter months sub-zero de-icer and screenwash; ’U’ top-up antifreeze; air freshener; and demister pad.