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Seasonal candy sweetens sales, merch opportunities

Lindt’s Gold Bunnies

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Seasonal candy always has provided a bump in confectionery sales for retailers, and sales of Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s and Easter candy are expected to be up this year.

“More than 25% of all confectionery sales are generated from seasonal holidays—that’s a big number, and also why it’s so important to merchandise seasonal confectionery in key points throughout the store as early as possible,” said Jenn Ellek, a spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association.

Seasonal candy is highly dependent on merchandising support; NCS research showed that more than half of all seasonal candy volume is sold on display. “Merchandising the category right is the key to profitable sales,” Ellek said.

Selling through merchandise also is a must for seasonal products with a limited shelf life. “The challenge for retailers is how to estimate sales for Easter when you don’t even know how you did at Christmas,” said Lisbeth Echeandia, VP trade marketing for Frey Enterprises. The calculation has become even more critical now that retailers are cutting as close to the bone as possible in this down economy.

That doesn’t mean retailers should shy away from seasonal products that provide terrific impulse purchase occasions. “Holiday is an opportunity to get some excitement into the category,” Echeandia said, and fewer holiday introductions actually have been a detriment to the category. Consumers clamor for season-specific confections they could only purchase at certain times of year. The Cadbury Crème Egg remains one of the best examples of those classics. “It’s much harder to capitalize on that exclusivity now,” Echeandia said.

While manufacturers may be cutting back on new product introductions, they are doing more with seasonal packaging. “We’re seeing more special editions of tried and true favorites, where the confection is the same, but the packaging changes according to season,” Ellek said.

Just Born has done a great job of tailoring its popular Peeps marshmallow candies to every season. For Easter 2010, the company has launched Peeps Chocolate Covered Chicks in milk and dark chocolate, wrapped in single-serve packages.

This past Christmas, Just Born created seasonal packaging for its Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales brand candies, and introduced a Mike and Ike Holiday Medley mix. The introductions put a new spin on everyday brands—an approach that’s been a big success in the category. Green M&Ms, which were packaged in small, plastic heart containers as stocking stuffers were a big favorite for holiday ’09. “The seasonal ‘dress’ is a biggie for the consumer,” Echeandia said.

Industry experts said retailers can find opportunity beyond the traditional Halloween, Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s seasons. “Easter is underdeveloped,” Echeandia said. “In the United States, it’s just for kids, where in other countries, there’s more of an adult opportunity with high-end chocolate. People give high-end chocolate at Christmas; I think we have an opportunity for Easter giving as well.”

Lindt has had strong growth in premium Easter chocolate in the drug channel, especially when drug retailers give premium a strong presence in their seasonal displays. For Easter 2010, Lindt is featuring two Lindt Gold Bunnies in a small basket; for Valentine’s Day, it’s the Lindor Truffles Mini Gift Heart, which retails for $4.99.

Mars found a new marketing twist for Valentine’s Day with its partnership with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. From January to February, Dove Promises chocolate will feature unique holiday messages and tips from Martha Stewart under the signature foil wrapper. The program will be supported with a multimedia marketing campaign across all Martha Stewart media.

Echeandia said retailers should be asking themselves what else they could do with the category, especially in fallow seasons. Tie-ins with local sporting events or event marketing could provide some opportunity. Pink M&Ms for Breast Cancer Month or candies tied into local sporting teams can give off seasons a lift.

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