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05 December, 2006
The new year means new chocolate sales opportunities - make sure you're prepared
Page 41 
Saint Valentine's Day: chocolates - check; heart-shaped novelties - check; red roses - check. Mother's Day: flowers - check; chocolates - check. Easter: eggs - check. If only it were as simple as that - make a list, buy the stock, display it and it sells itself. But with the grocery multiples cutting prices and promoting like crazy (especially on shell eggs), there's more to consider - principally getting your range right for your customers. But forecourts definitely shouldn't give up on Easter altogether.
"In spring 2006 a number of forecourt retailers shied away from shell eggs, because they felt they could not compete with the multiple grocers' deals," says Graham Walker, sales communications manager at Nestlé Rowntree. "However, forecourts can capitalise on shell egg sales by stocking a tight range with the focus on what we call standard-plus and special eggs. This is because they can be sold at full value, and are ideal for the distress purchases made in forecourt outlets, rather than the standard eggs which are traded down by multiple grocers."He's got a point because not everyone has time to traipse around a big supermarket hunting out the bargains and some consumers are far too busy to plan ahead, so they rely on the stores they regularly visit to provide them with what they need.Cadbury Trebor Bassett's head of customer relations, Mike Tipping, adds that as shoppers are often pressed for time, a good display is vital in prompting them to purchase confectionery. "The main fixture should be used to clearly signpost the spring occasion as well as create theatre and excitement in store. Secondary and pre-filled displays make it easier for the shopper to find what they are looking for and prominent counter displays increase the rate of impulse purchases."Meanwhile, despite all the cut-price activity in the marketplace, forecourts did very well last Easter. According to IRI data, Easter sales (traditional Easter lines and boxed chocolates) in all petrol forecourts experienced growth, increasing by 5% year-on-year from £10.7m in 2005, to £11.2m at Easter 2006. However it should be noted that there were three more weeks in the Easter season in 2006 compared to 2005. Growth was driven by an increase in sales within managed petrol forecourts, which rose by almost 20%. However independent forecourts experienced a 10% decline in sales.Andrea Taylor, trade relations manager at Masterfoods, reckons the reason independent forecourts didn't experience the same level of growth as the managed sites was because they didn't stock filled and mini eggs early enough in the spring season and they were hampered by out-of-stocks.Despite this, Taylor reports that the star performer across total forecourts last Easter was filled eggs, sales of which represented 35% of total forecourt traditional Easter business. "The success of filled eggs in forecourts is largely due to the fact that SKUs from this category can be stocked throughout the season, providing retailers with a steady stream of sales. For 2007, we're advising independent forecourts to stock up on filled eggs as early as January to see an uplift in Easter sales."When it comes to shell eggs, Masterfoods advises independent forecourts to stock its '& Friends' range of adult eggs as these were some of the top performers in these outlets last Easter. The range includes Maltesers & Friends and Mars & Friends, both of which retail at £4.99. And luxury eggs are definitely a must-stock as sales tripled in forecourts last Easter, from £77,520 in 2005 to £365,691 in 2006, according to IRI data.In addition, forecourts are advised to stock popular boxed chocolate lines from January right to the end of the spring season to profit from sales at Valentine's Day and Mother's Day as well as at Easter itself.SPRING COLLECTIONAs usual, the big guns are bringing out loads of new chocolate lines for spring. Cadbury Trebor Bassett (CTB) has two new large shell adult eggs: Cadbury Flake Variety (£4.99), which contains a selection of three different Flake bars; and Cadbury Dairy Milk Variety (£4.99), which includes a selection of Cadbury Dairy Milk miniatures. And following its success last Easter with giant eggs, CTB is launching a Cadbury Crunchie giant egg which retails at £9.99. Another big success for the company was its luxury Delight range, which is being extended by two new lines: a £14.99 large Delight egg and a dark Delight egg, which retails at £9.99.The big new novelty from CTB is the Cadbury Chick with Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons, rrp £2.79. To help retailers, the Cadbury Chick comes in pre-filled displays.In addition, Cadbury Roses will be back on TV in the new year as part of a £2m marketing campaign to boost sales around Mother's Day. And for all three spring occasions, CTB has produced pre-filled displays to help create interest and excitement.Over at Masterfoods, the Galaxy filled and mini eggs have redesigned packaging with warm colours to reflect the indulgent nature of the products. Plus there's a new Celebrations with Mini Eggs pack - where three of the twistwrap chocolates are replaced by special-edition mini-egg counterparts.There are loads of new products from Nestlé Rowntree including, for Valentine's Day, bloke's favourite Yorkie, in its Yorkie 300g 'Yor My Chunky Hunk' bar (£2.49). There's also the new Rolo filled egg, which is expected to be popular among young women. Rrp is 38p. And there's a Black Magic mini eggs pouch containing dark chocolate eggs with a rich truffle centre.In 2006, Nestlé Rowntree recognised a gap in the market for standard-plus eggs and developed a £3.99 range to fill it. It reports that the strategy was successful, resulting in the fastest-growing sub-sector of the Easter market in 2006 - up 421% in independents - so it's no surprise to hear that it will continue with this range in 2007. There are five new standard-plus eggs: Pink Smarties 'jewellery set inside' egg; Smarties 'colouring set inside'; plus three eggs with mugs - Yorkie, Aero Bubbles and the KitKat heritage mug egg, which celebrates KitKat's 70th birthday."We want to help small shops succeed with shell eggs," says Graham Walker. "The best way of doing this is to stock a focused standard egg range, which utilises the higher price points we know shoppers are willing to pay, and which offer more than just chocolate."Nestlé Rowntree also promises eggs with that extra 'wow factor' including the Milkybar Buttons Mr Potato Head egg and the Smarties Book Prize egg.Last but by no means least, Kraft is launching its first-ever limited-edition Chocolate Orange where the traditional orange shape is replaced by a heart shape. It has been designed with the idea of 'giving with love' over spring occasions and so will be available for Valentine's Day and for a limited period afterwards.Kraft's channel and communications manager, Sarah Petts, says: "Terry's Chocolate Orange continues to be a top seller year-on-year, and developing a pack for Valentine's Day makes it even more suited to the occasion. It is the first time Kraft Foods has ever launched a limited-edition version of the ball for Valentine's Day, so it makes it even more special." CREME OF THE CROPSales of Cadbury Creme Eggs just keep growing. In 2006 they were up 32% over the previous year. For 2007, the brand will be supported by a £5m marketing campaign that will include TV, interactive digital advertising and PR. This will build on the successful 'My Way' TV campaign, which encourages consumers to eat the eggs 'their way'.Forecourt retailers should not be put off by the fact that the brand has been around since 1923 - consumers are far from fed up with Creme Eggs and they are still the number one selling single egg during the Easter season.A big part of the support for 2007 will involve maximising in-store displays as Cadbury Trebor Bassett's research found that 50% of filled egg and mini egg shoppers do not buy from the main fixture but from secondary sites and counter displays.Mike Tipping, CTB's head of customer relations, comments: "In order to get the most out of Cadbury Creme Eggs, forecourts should use a range of on- and off-shelf displays. Counter-site displays had an integral role to play in the success of the brand in 2006. Shoppers are often more hesitant to purchase treats following the busy Christmas period and exciting in-store support will encourage shoppers to re-engage with confectionery. It is also important that retailers maintain displays as this will help drive sales momentum through all the spring occasions." When it comes to promotions, Tipping concedes that they have an important role to play but he says retailers should be careful not to over-promote on price. "Research shows that three Cadbury Creme Egg singles for 99p is the right level of price promotion to drive incremental sales and therefore we recommend they are not traded below this price."PREMIUM PROMISEIf you're looking for some really good premium lines for Easter then look no further than Lindt. Yes, the grocery multiples stock some of the company's products but not usually huge amounts and they're rarely price-promoted.Lindt did very well last Easter, specifically with its Gold Bunny and Lindor lines.Gold Bunny sales grew by more than 26% last Easter and achieved a market value of £9.5m. Further growth is expected thanks to its biggest-ever marketing campaign.The £2.5m spend will include national TV advertising in March and April, product placement on TV in January, plus a 'Give a Gold Bunny a Home' promotion which itself will be supported by outdoor advertising and a direct-mail campaign. Meanwhile sales of Lindor continue to grow, with the brand now worth just over £28m.Marketing support for 2007 will include a £1m national TV advertising and sampling campaign around Valentine's Day and Easter. In addition, the Lindor 28g filled egg will be supported by an outdoor media campaign.Finally, Lindt has two new Easter lines. For the sophisticated palate, there's the Excellence Origins egg (rrp £9.99) with its distinctive cocoa flavours from Cuba, Madagascar and Ecuador. Plus there's the new Lindt Luxury Swiss egg (rrp £19.99), which comes in a pink or green floral design.DATES FOR YOUR DIARY- Valentine's Day - February 14- Mother's Day - March 18- Easter - April 6-9