Getting the most out of Christmas Chocs and Confectionery

The nation’s sweet tooth has been getting sweeter year on year for some time now, and Christmas is the stand-out season for chocs and candy – so be sure to win in this innovative category

Photo: iStock

As one of the highest-penetration categories, seasonal chocolate and candy gifting presents a fantastic opportunity for retailers to drive sales from October through November into December. From advent calendars to selection boxes, the Christmas category is versatile, highly incremental, and brings people together across the nation.

It goes without saying that this year Christmas will be experienced with a special intensity, and we can expect sales of lower-priced luxuries, such as boxes of chocolates and other gifting items, to reflect this.

Boxes, bags, tablets, sharing novelties and other larger pack sizes are especially popular at Christmas because it is essentially a sharing occasion, as families and friends (although not so much friends, this year) come together to celebrate throughout the season.

Gifting also goes hand-in-hand with the festive period. Whether purchasing an advent calendar, making a present of a selection box, or topping up Christmas stockings, shoppers are looking for inspiration and excitement for their loved ones (and themselves).

With this in mind, promotions on boxes earlier in the season can help kick start festivities, but it is highly important to capitalise on sales opportunities in the final weeks leading up to Christmas, which account formore than a fifth of total season sales.

“Mondelēz International advises retailers to split Christmas into three phases to enable them to stock the right range at the right time,” says Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelēz International.

“The season begins in September and October, when stores can kick off with a ‘Season Start’ for sharing confectionery as the nights draw in. In November, the season begins for shoppers with the ‘Countdown to Christmas’ so retailers should reflect this in store with advent calendars and tree decorations. Finally, as we enter December and the big day approaches, retailers can deliver ‘Seasonal Christmas Magic’, where shoppers are increasingly looking to trade up, by stocking up on gifting and selection packs to drive maximum sales from festive shoppers.”

We know shoppers are willing to spend and indulge more at Christmas, meaning premium purchases, which signals a strong performance for gift and boxed segments, so retailers should ensure they are fully stocked with these products.

This year especially, with local shops in such demand through the lockdown and after, use all available PoS to create exciting and welcoming in-store theatre – and site product as close as possible to the entrance to enhance sales. Also, make the most of excited seasonal impulse buys by offering lots of opportunities – placing confectionery at multiple points around the store.

It’s important for retailers to recognise that shoppers are often looking for those perfect little gifts which are the ideal stocking filler. Try having a stocking-filler fixture in your store which contains those kinds of skus, which makes it easier for shoppers at what can be a busy and stressful time.

And don’t forget the till-point offer for forgotten purchases and last-minute inspirations. Do all these things and the atmospheric sales uplift can be considerable, driving purchase penetration by up to 60 per cent, according to Mars Wrigley Confectionery.

Chocs and treats are neat

There are many chocolate manufacturers, but a few whose ranges you absolutely must take note of and stock up with: the public expects to find these skus in-store, especially around Christmas.

Mondelēz International is the biggest confectionery supplier at Christmas, increasing its market share by 1.6 per cent last year, and will be helping shoppers create some much-needed Christmas magic with a range of new treats and returning favourites for the 2020 Christmas season.

Its Cadbury and Maynards Bassetts brands will be helping retailers make it a year to remember for their shoppers with new Cadbury Roses tins (in collaboration with Emma Bridgewater, RRP £9.99) and brand new Cadbury Dairy Milk Jingly Bells – although retailers should be ready in November with advent calendars, replacing them with gift and selection boxes as December begins.

The shopper tendency to trade-up into more premium products is prevalent at Christmas. Large sharing packs and gifting products – such as tubes, tubs, selection boxes and kids gifting ranges – should be a key part of every store’s range during December,to offer a trade-up opportunity.

“Cadbury is tapping into this trend with several ‘gift-worthy’ new launches for 2020, including the new Cadbury Dairy Milk Chunk Secret Santa Gift,” explains Nash. “The gift box is filled with delicious chocolate parcels, making for the ultimate gift this Christmas. Both the 96g and 250g variants come in cardboard boxes with labels so consumers can write a personalised message.”

Cadbury offers a universe of options in chocolate, and among the NPD for this season is the Cadbury Dairy Milk Advent Calendar 258g at an RRP of £5.99, and the Cadbury Dairy Milk Jingly Bells Hazelnut Crème And Chocolate Noisette 82g at RRP £1.49. Children will love the Freddo Giant Gold Treasures Tins (£5.99), and everyone the Cadbury Dairy Milk Chunk Gift Box is filled with delicious chocolate parcels (RRP 250g – £4.99, 96g £2.99; 250g, 6 units per case, 96g – 9 units per case) andthe Oreo Selection Box 430g (£5.95).

This year also sees a 3D advent calendar alongside the Dairy Milk Calendars and a Cadbury Heroes Advent Calendar, Avent Calendars are ever-more popular and Cadbury is helping the cause by also offering aCadbury Heroes Advent Calendar(RRP £4.99, 230g), apremium Green and Blacks Advent Calendar (360g, £12.99) and even aToblerone Advent Calendar (200g, RRP £9.99).

Novelties are well-represented by skus such as the DAIRY MILK HOLLOW SANTA GIFT, which comes boxed (at £5.00, 175g) or in different sizes at an RRP of £2.99 for 100g and £1.49 for 45g. There are chocolate Christmas tree decorations and more Freddo products, including a plush toy and choc skus (RRP £5.99, 70g) and a tube at RRP £1.42 (72g) – and there are also tubes of Dairy Milk Buttons and Fudge Minis (same price and weight).

Christmas is also a big self-treat (and repeat self-treat) period, and Cadbury has this well covered, too, with Dairy Milk Jolly Santas and Snowmen, Winter Gingerbread and winter Wonderland skus, along with crunchy Mini Snow Balls And Dairy Milk Little Robins And With Daim.

Selection Boxes include Cadbury Stocking Selection Box at £3.99 and a dark choc Cadbury Bournville Retro Selection Box at £5.95(there is now also a Cadbury Darkmilk Selection Box, also at £5.95). And of course a Freddo Selection Box containing Cadbury Chomp, Cadbury Curly Wurly and Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons at an RRP of £2.99.

What should not be missed is the Fry’s Selection Box for those who love the iconic taste of chocolate and mint together (RRP £2.99) and for everyone to share, the Cadbury Dairy Milk Giant Vintage Chocolate Bar in the form of its historic 1905 edition (RRP £9.99 for a huge 850g!)


Nestlé Confectionery is also a giant on the seasonal chocs scene, adapting its well-loved brands to the seasonal occasion.

Quality Street is perhaps the ultimate in Christmas tinned chocolate tradition, and after cementing its place as the No.1 brand at Christmas in 2019, will continue to amplify its role as an essential part of the festive season with the launch of a brand-new advertising campaign which aims to capitalise on the brand’s winning formula.

Quality Street now accounts for the highest number of Christmas confectionery occasions for 25-35 year-olds versus key competitor brands, and last year the brand enjoyed its third consecutive year of market share growth

It is available in a 240g carton, 450g pouch, 650g tub, and 1kg tin. Convenience retailers should focus on the must stock QUALITY STREET 240g carton (RRP £2.99), as well as the 650g tub (RRP £7.74) which is a format synonymous with Christmas.

KitKat and Aero are also this year turning Christmassy.

There is a new Kitkat Santa – a Santa-shaped chocolate bar available in a 29g impulse format (RRP £0.65), a 5 bar multipack (RRP £3.00) and a 66g bag of individually wrapped mini Santas (RRP £1.00), supported by a £1 million media campaign. (The launch follows the successful introduction of Kitkat Bunny at Easter, which proved to be the number two best-selling NPD). And there is also now a 2020 season Kitkat Santa advent calendar at RRP £5.00.

Aero is innovating with its Dreamy White Snowbubblesin an 80g bag (RRP £1.00)Each bubble comprises of a smooth half milk chocolate and half white shell, with a light, bubbly vanilla centre. The launch will capitalise on the brand’s popularity, which has seen Aero grow +26 per cent in the last 12 months (+33.6 per cent so far in 2020).

Nestlé is covering the novelties sector with its Milkybar Reindeer and Smarties Penguins. The novelties category is worth a huge £77 million, with 1 in 5 UK adults buying into it, and last year Nestlé Confectionery delivered an 100 per cent of the growth in the category with these two skus.

The Reindeers will be available in three different sizes: 16g for immediate consumption (RRP £0.65), a 44g small gift or stocking filler (RRP £1.49) and an 88g gesture gift (RRP £2.49). The Penguins are available in four sizes: 18.5g for immediate consumption (RRP £0.65), a 50g small novelty size penguin (RRP £1.49) and a 94g full chocolate figure (RRP £2.49), as well as the 175g penguins which come complete with real detachable bowties (RRP £3.99).

Smarties and Milkybar also come in giant tubes, alongside other Rowntree’s brands and Rolos, all at an RRP of £1.38, and boxes are also represented by , Kitkat Senses – individually wrapped chocolates in hazelnut praline, salted caramel and double chocolate flavours (RRP £5.00) – and Aero BlissMixed Selection (milk chocolate, salted caramel and praline flavours at an RRP of £5.00). Bliss will benefit from a big media campaign.

Nestlé also means mastery in mint chocs and retailers would do well to ensure they are well stocked with the elegant and iconic After Eight – the No.1 after-Dinner Mint brand, accounting for a huge 55.3 per cent share of total category sales, whichlast year contributed 91 per cent of incremental spend in the category, (up 1.4 per cent in value). The 300g pack, which grew 3.9 per cent in 2019, is the no.1 best-seller.

There is also a new limited edition After Eight Gin & Tonic 200g pack (RRP £3.00) and a 400g Christmas tin that will feature a new festive design (RRP £6.00). And don’t forget those other after-dinner delights, Matchmakers, now a £20m brand after growing a huge 13.5 per cent last Christmas.

Cool Mint and Zingy Orange remain the core flavours for convenience retailers to stock, but Salted Carameland Gingerbread flavours are also to die for. All RRP at £2.24.

And lastly, right at the top of the tree, so to speak There is the premium Quality Street Advent Calendar (RRP £5.00) that will feature a brand-new beautiful festive street design, along with the Dairy Box Christmas Collection (RRP £8.00, 388g).

Biscuits go well with Christmas

Christmas doesn’t only mean chocolate. Biscuits are up there as traditional co-champions and this year will be no different.

Scott Snell, Vice President of Customer at pladis UK & Ireland, says that “Christmas remains a key sales period for biscuits and, considering that McVitie’s is the bestselling Christmas Biscuit brand – with sales worth £34 millionduring the festive period alone – our products are a crucial part of the mix for retailers hoping to take a bite out of the £161 million seasonal sales opportunity.”

Snell agrees that this year will be a special one for indies: “While celebrations could look quite different, we expect many consumers will want to make the most of their smaller-scale festivities and will trade-up across categories.” That means stocking best brands and availing the shopper of premiumisation options, while keeping the core range front and centre: “Independent retailers should remember that while stocking limited-edition festive products is an essential part of driving excitement and impulse sales in the lead-up to Christmas, the core remains key,” he says.

Key biscuits such as Digestives and Jaffa Cakes need to be present (they are worth £63 million and £47 million respectively in total retail), but Christmas specials such as McVitie’s White Chocolate Digestive Nibbles and the festive edition of McVitie’s Family Circle “will help independent retailers drive higher volume sales during the Christmas period.” Snell adds that indulgence is the watchword over the festive season – not just for ourselves but others as well – that means gifting.

“This year, we’ve launched the McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes Christmas Present which is perfectly suited to shoppers on a gifting mission,” Snell says. “We wanted to offer our shoppers something special for the festive season, and the McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes Christmas Present – a ready-to-gift Christmas box which includes 20 original and 20 Orange & Cranberry Jaffa Cakes – is sure to drive sales in the lead-up to Christmas day.” It has an RSP of £3 (400g).

And in the novelty stakes, the Jaffa Cake Pole is back (40 Jaffa Cakes, RSP: £3) alongside the returning McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes Christmas Tin (239g, RSP: £5) – shaped as giant, lifelike Jaffa Cake – which no child and therefore no parent can resist.

Snell adds that there is also the McVitie’s 180 Years Heritage Tin – “the finest, most exclusive offering in this year’s seasonal line-up” – which should likewise certainly feature on convenience store shelves during the festive period(400g, RSP: £8).

The pladis seasonal range is extensive: this year sees the launch of the launch of McVitie’s Christmas Pudding Milk Chocolate Digestives and McVitie’s Gingerbread Milk Chocolate Digestives, which have performed exceptionally well in consumer testing, with 73 per cent of shoppers stating their intent to buy Gingerbread!

As for Jaffa cakes, we are promised a Christmas special edition Orange & Cranberry flavour, available in a 125g pack at an RSP of £1.20.

Biscuit collections and tins are the essence of Christmas for very many people, and in addition to the classic Family Circle, will be available in a 310g box (RSP: £3.09) and a 620g box (RSP: £4), there is the McVitie’s Victoria assortment, in boxes of 300g (RSP: £3), 600g (RSP: £6), 825g (RSP: £8) and 1.2kg (RSP: £12); and there is McVitie’s Moments Signature Chocolate Biscuit Selection (400g, RSP: £6),which comprises 26 biscuits smothered in McVitie’s iconic silky-smooth chocolate.

Each tin suits different moods, tastes and occasions so there is something for everyone, and all should be stocked. And the same goes for pladis’ savoury biscuits, which equally are ain demand over the season, when all manner of cheeses and charcuterie are high on the Christmas menu.

Shelves look empty without the well-loved pladis brands of Jacobs and Carr’s, and now the Christmas Caddies are back.

“Nothing says Christmas quite like a box of crackers and a cheese board,” says Jonathan Bull, Head of Commercial & Seasonal Brands, “and this year we’re back with several selection boxes from Jacob’s to satisfy key seasonal trends such as indulgence and togetherness,”

This year there is a tie-in as headline sponsor of Save the Children with its Christmas Jumper day:

“We’ll be supporting the sponsorship through a generous donation, plus a campaign which we’ve called ‘Cracker Smile This Christmas’,” says Bull,“As well as encouraging shoppers to put on their ‘knobbliest knits’, ‘cheesiest jumpers’, ‘snappiest sweaters’ and ‘spruced up sweaters’ via on-pack flashes, we’ll be amplifying the campaign through PR and social.”

Jacobs is the £72 million number one savoury biscuit brand, and this year the classic Jacob’s Biscuits For Cheese comes in a ready-to-gift vintage-style tin, in honour of the brand’s 160 years heritage, with an RSP of £10 (300g), while the Savoury FavouritesSelection is available in a 200g box at an RSP of £2.19. Specially for Yuletide there is Jacob’s Festive Selection, which includes seven varieties of crackers, and is available in a 450g box at an RSP of £4.29.

The premium £10 million Carr’s brand, meanwhile,offers the classic Carr’s Selection– including Original Melts and Table Water (200g, RSP: £3.00) – and especially for the festivities, Carr’s Selection will also be available in a festive box (500g, RSP: £7.50) for “cracker connoisseurs and festive foodies”.It’s a must-stock for retailers looking to drive higher value sales during the seasonal period.

Christmas candy rocks!

Christmas candy supplies much of the seasonal colour and flavour at Christmas – from lollipops hanging on the tree to bowls of wrapped sweets and displays of hard candies around the room.

“Christmas is an important time for sugar confectionery, growing +3.4 per cent and outperforming total confectionery at 1.3 per cent. Sales of £1.4bn went through the tills on the Saturday and Monday before Christmas last year, so any retailers that stock seasonal lines are likely to see increase of sales as shoppers shop more and more locally,” says Mark Roberts, Trade Marketing Manager at Perfetti Van Melle, and points out that products such as Chupa Chups lollipops are a favourite and portion-able.

“Our range of lollipop bags, party bags and multipacks are perfect stocking fillers and great for sharing at parties and social get-togethers,” he adds, saying that Fruittella continues to lead the way in wrapped bags and are a great addition to any range, with greater brand awareness than competitor wrapped brands.

This Christmas PVM has launched a special seasonal Mentos Candy Cane roll with the ad-line “This Christmas Will Be Mint”. The white candies, printed with red Christmas imagery, are in a delicious mint-vanilla flavour and are available only until the end of the year.

Mark Walker, Sales Director at Swizzels points out that 85 per cent of people buy sugar confectionery at Christmas for a gift, so stocking a variety early on is key to boosting sales, “particularly this year, with shoppers turning their attention to the festive season sooner than normal, taking into account their financial situations.”

He says The hugely popular Drumstick Squashies Carton is back for Christmas 2020. This 350g carton contains the best-selling Squashies variant – Original Raspberry & Milk.

Swizzels’ 108g gift tube range is ideal for stocking fillers, and the range includes the Refreshers Gift Tube, as well as the Love Hearts Gift Tube, now containing emoji Love Hearts, the Drumstick Mixed Lolly Gift Tube, Parma Violets Gift Tube and the Sweet Treats Tube, filled with a variety of Swizzels favourites.

Valeo, owner of the Barratt brand, has also , has unveiled its must-have Christmas confectionery lines – with a reassuring retro feel.

“Shoppers can escape back to their childhood with Barratt’s retro sweets – Refreshers, Wham, Fruit Salad, Black Jack – available as a tub (630g, MRRSP £3), a carton (300g, MRRSP £2) and a sharing bag (180g, MRRSP £1) – all designed to be the perfect purchase for family sharing over the festive period. There is also a retro advent calendar.

Other traditional sweets recalling more grown-up tastes are also on offer: milk chocolate Just Brazils (180g, MRRSP £3)  York Fruits (200g, MRRSP £3) and Barratt’s Liquorice Novelties (270g, MRRSP £3).

Walker explains that four years ago, Valeo Confectionery identified “kidulting” as a key market trend for consumers. “Today,” he says, “this is still a key purchasing-driver. The notion of adults looking to treat themselves and escape the stress of everyday life with the sweets they remember from their childhoods is set to be important again this year, adding a sprinkle of much-needed fun and joy to what is expected to be a tough Christmas for many.”

Who could bet on him being wrong?