Christmas is a magical time of year for families and friends to get together and celebrate with delicious food and drink at home.

It is expected that consumers will make the most of this Christmas, coming together – whether in-person or virtually – to celebrate the biggest moment in the calendar for retailers and shoppers alike (Nielsen).

Levi Boorer, Customer Development Director at Ferrero, comments: “Confectionery represents a category that has something many others are not as fortunate on: resilience.”

December 2019 itself was particularly strong, with the category seeing growth at 5.5% (Nielsen).

The Main Gift confectionery purchase was the beacon of light during a tough market in 2019, and Self Treat in impulse saw solid growth of +2.8% (IRI). The success of the Main Gift purchase was down to existing shoppers making more trips than the previous year; and again, those trips in general were being made online rather than in physical stores.

“Christmas is a critical sales period for retailers and despite a year-on-year slowdown in performance and continued challenges to consumer confidence, brands and retailers need to get creative to drive early basket spend and remain visible at more shopper touchpoints,” says Boorer. “It’s vital for retailers to focus heavily on their product phasing. For confectionery, September through to early October is a vital ‘Early Bird’ period; it’s used to let shoppers know that ‘Christmas is coming’. The segments of focus are usually Sharing, Main Gift (smaller packs) and Self Treat.”

Next up is the ‘Build Up’ phase – throughout mid-October to the end of November – a period that is worth £227m, so it’s crucial to the trade. This is when shoppers will start to purchase in earnest. The segments of focus are: Stocking Fillers and Advent Calendars, Main Gifts and Sharing.

Finally, as we enter December, we’re in the ‘Main Event’ phase – the final push that is worth £270m. Much like previous years, the final four weeks in December 2019 were key, with 46% of confectionery sales going through in that period (Nielsen). Shoppers typically behave quite differently during this time, with an air of ‘panic mode’. Segments of focus are: Main Gift, Sharing and Stocking Fillers.

Ferrero recently commissioned research from KAM media to find what convenience retailers’ attitudes towards Christmas confectionery were, and how they had been impacted by COVID-19.

Almost three quarters (71%) are remaining optimistic and believe shoppers will continue to support their local stores by spending the same or more on seasonal products as a result of lockdown.

“Social distancing has made people sentimental and more appreciative of their loved ones, so we’re expecting to see increased acts of kindness and gifting, as shoppers look to add a bit of joy through moments of generosity,” comments Boorer.

The results also showed that many retailers remain undeterred in their planning processes, with 50% of convenience store retailers planning their seasonal confectionery offering 1-2 months in advance of Christmas.

“It’s therefore even more important that retailers ensure they are stocking a strong core range to appeal to shoppers throughout the autumnal and winter seasonal confectionery trading spikes,” says Boorer.

“Promotions are important in the run up to Christmas and should be planned out carefully and by subcategory,” suggests Boorer. “While the final week in December is vital to securing the sales of seasonal products, promotional activity should start as early as September to provide shoppers with the right products throughout the season.”

Ferrero recommends promoting a range of boxed chocolates around September to kick off the season – with Diwali in October, there’s a great opportunity to make the most of the sales potential during the celebratory period.

Once Diwali and Halloween have passed, Ferrero encourages retailers to promote a range of advent calendars throughout November to capitalise on demand for those items being very time sensitive leading into December. November is also an important time to drive sales of stocking fillers – everything from selection packs to novelty figures and shapes.

“Retailers should start to promote stocking fillers from mid-November through until the end of December to take advantage of when seasonal purchases are at their highest,” adds Boorer. “Lastly, we advise retailers to start promoting larger, premium boxed chocolates in December to make the most of those shoppers looking for the perfect gift.”

Even with the uncertainty we are facing for Christmas 2020, with it being difficult to predict what position we will be in regarding social distancing and celebrations, Ferrero still expects the demand for confectionery products, including advent calendars and main gifts in particular, to remain. Shoppers are keen to spend more time with their loved ones, having spent so much time apart in recent months, and may be looking to premium formats that enhance those experiences and to help them to celebrate.

“Despite the recent challenges we have all faced, Christmas remains a time for families to celebrate,” Boorer continues. “We’re optimistic that we can still deliver the same levels of emotional engagement in the shopping moment – regardless of how and where the celebrations take place this year. We are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 situation, ensuring our festive plans are in tune with the situation, with clear scenario planning.”

For instance, social distancing measures could limit opportunity for physical Christmas gatherings between households. However, hand-in-hand with this, social distancing has made people sentimental, reflective and appreciative of their close relationships, suggesting the potential for an increase in acts of kindness and gifting this festive period.

In uncertain times, shoppers tend to rely on the brands they know and love, which Ferrero expects to be the case again this year. At Christmas 2019, it was core lines and all-year-round products that led the performance, so Ferrero encourages retailers to stock up on those lines to ensure the range appeals to a wide range of shoppers. Core lines also have the benefit of retaining their relevance after the event has passed, so there is less wasted stock, which is particularly important this year where shopper demand at Christmas is still difficult to predict.

Jo Sinisgalli, Gifting Senior Brand Manager at Mars Wrigley UK, comments: “While the way Brits will be spending Christmas and the holidays remains uncertain, they can have a silent night’s sleep knowing that Mars Wrigley UK will be providing some much-needed cheer and sparkle to any festive feast this year – be it in person or over Zoom!”

Newly launched Galaxy Caramel Truffles (RRP £4.99 – 212g), available market wide from early September, have a smooth caramel and velvety truffle centre, making the perfect gift or addition to a Christmas party. Mars Wrigley UK is launching Galaxy Orange Truffles (RRP £4.99 – 212g) as an exclusive with Tesco this year, available from early September.

As the number one confectionery NPD for Christmas 2019, Galaxy Truffles is back again and is now available in a large 329g gift box format alongside Mars Wrigley’s original premium truffle offering, Maltesers Truffles.

The UK’s best-selling chocolate tub, Celebrations is available in various formats, from 240g at RRP £3.31 to 650g at £10.99 RRP, making it a versatile addition to the Christmas shop, be it for a gift or to be shared together at home.

Mars is also launching Milky Way and Skittles Selection Boxes to further tap into the sharing rituals of the holidays and appeal to the classic confectionery fans.

Alongside the new and favourite gifting options, Mars is also extending the premium offering to advent calendars, with the launch of the new Galaxy Truffles Advent Calendar and the return of Maltesers Truffles Advent Calendar. A decadent daily treat, the Advent Calendar is a festive way to enjoy Galaxy and Maltesers Truffles.

This year, the 265g Maltesers Christmas Mix pouches is back again and will contain 15 SKUs in total including a selection of Maltesers Buttons, as well as the Maltesers Reindeer (which has remained the number one best-selling confectionery treat at Christmas) and core Maltesers packets, so plenty to go around for the whole family.

Also new for this season is the Maltesers Present Box, a special gift available exclusively at Asda.

For a more premium way to count down until the big day, Brits will be turning to the Maltesers Truffles Advent Calendar which has returned for another year. With 24 milk chocolate truffles with malt pieces, chocolate filling and honeycomb pieces the calendar is available at Tesco.

Claire James, Trade Marketing Manager, Haribo UK, comments: “As the UK’s number one sweets manufacturer, which is bought by over 2.1m more households than its nearest competitor (Kantar), Haribo has a long-standing history of making quality products that have become market-leading treats. It offers a range of top sellers that should be core to store.”

Haribo Tangfastics and Starmix, are the top two selling packs in the market (IRI). Starmix features five pieces, the egg, heart, ring, cola bottle and bear, while Tangfastics also boasts a selection of fun shapes.

The softer sweets found in Haribo Supermix drives its popularity, making it the markets’ fourth best seller. Meanwhile, sales of Giant Strawbs, Haribo’s best-selling vegetarian treat, which is packed with strawberry flavour, continue to grow faster than any other sweet treat within the market (IRI).

For Maoam, the fastest growing chewy sweets brand this year (IRI), Stripes and Pinballs help to deliver a range of family-favourite treats.

The most important pack format in the sweets category is the medium bag, products that typically sell for £1. They account for almost 60 per cent of sales, with growth of over £13m in the last 52 weeks (IRI).

“The pack format works for retailers because it is easy to merchandise,” adds James. “The format appeals to shoppers because it offers great value in a convenient format.”

In the latest data, confectionery in the convenience channel is performing well, with sales up 3.1 per cent year to date (IRI). Sweets are performing significantly ahead of this, with sales up 7.1 per cent (IRI). Leading this growth are medium bags of sweets, which show an increase in sales of almost £5m already this year (IRI).

Strawberry flavour, vegetarian offering, sugar reduced and softer eating treats continue to be key trends.

For Haribo, this is evidenced through the increasing popularity of its top-selling vegetarian treat, Giant Strawbs. Delivering an intense strawberry flavour and unique texture, sales are growing quicker than for any other sweet within the category (IRI).

Softer eating confectionery is also proving popular. In the last 52 weeks, Haribo Squidglets has sold more than any other medium bagged sweet launched in the last two years (IRI).

Baker Street, part of St Pierre Groupe, has launched its Stollen range into Tesco stores nationwide. The new range is available in three SKUs: Apple Stollen Loaf (200g), Marzipan Stollen Loaf (200g) and Stollen Bites (275g).

The national listing with the retailer is a first for Baker Street, which has long been a staple in the convenience sector. However, the brand has enjoyed double-digit growth for three consecutive years and was worth £24.2mn at the end 2019, which has put it firmly on the radar of the major multiples.

The move into Stollen comes off the back of research identifying an opportunity for the brand. Founder of St Pierre Groupe, Jeremy Gilboy explains: “The Baker Street proposition has always been about ‘availability’ – for customers and consumers – providing fresh tasting bakery products so that you have what you want, when you want it.

“Our research showed that almost 50 per cent of consumers are buying Stollen over the Christmas period and eating it for various occasions, which is why we’ve introduced two different formats.”

In-house research carried out by St Pierre Groupe identified that while 53 per cent buy Stollen to enjoy with friends or family at home, 30 per cent actually buy it as a snack for themselves. Over half (51 per cent) said it was perfect for an impromptu afternoon snack.

Gilboy adds: “The Stollen range caters to these occasions, with loaves and Stollen bites which are perfect for snacking or sharing.”

Consumers also highlighted the attributes they were looking for in food and drink gifts, highlighting quality (65 per cent), authenticity (41 per cent) and attractive packaging (39 per cent) as key selling points.

Made to an authentic German recipe, Baker Street Stollen is packaged in a Christmas market-themed film, designed to offer on-shelf standout.

Gilboy continues: “Securing a Baker Street listing in Tesco is a fantastic achievement and will help drive further exposure for the brand. Year on year growth shows we’re up 34 per cent in value sales, which is as strong an argument as any that we are a must-stock for retailers nationwide.”

Jess Markowski, Convenience Sales Director at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, says: “A key trend when preparing for the Christmas period is premiumisation, with shoppers willing to indulge over the festive season and spend more on premium beers. But it’s not just in December that consumers are looking to treat themselves. The demand for premium options begins in mid-October and runs all the way through to Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. As such, savvy retailers will start stocking up on premium options now to make the most of this demand.”

Stella Artois is consistently the number one alcohol brand at Christmas (Nielsen) making it a stand-out choice for retailers when stocking up during the festive season. The Artois Brewery crafted this festive beer in 1926 as a Christmas gift to the people of Leuven. That special batch was the first to officially include the name “Stella” – meaning star in Latin – and the brand now continues to pay homage to this occasion with its star design on each bottle.

Budweiser is another must-stock Christmas option – it is the number two most valuable beer brand in UK off-trade and was the number three alcohol brand at Christmas last year (Nielsen).

In 2019, another clear winner throughout this period was World Beer, with value up 14.2% in the lead up to Christmas (Nielsen) so retailers can expect a similar trend this year. Corona is the number one world lager in the off-trade by value, growing 11% YOY (Nielsen), so is a great premium choice for retailers looking to tap into this category.

Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director at Heineken UK, comments: “Christmas presents one of the biggest purchasing occasions and with traditional seasonal events and activities potentially not able to take place this year, it’s likely that consumers will be spending more time at home, celebrating with friends and family. This year Christmas will be an even greater opportunity for retailers. As such, it’s essential that preparations are made ahead of time.”

Christmas is a key occasion for shoppers to treat themselves, as well as friends and family to more premium offerings. This is particularly the case when consumers are spending an evening at home, which is likely to be more popular this Christmas than in previous years. “Retailers therefore need to ensure they are offering the right range of premium alternatives to cater for consumers looking to trade up,” adds Lancaster.

The no and low category – one of the fastest growing segments in the market – will play a key role over the festive period. Driving this has been the shift in drinking habits, particularly amongst Gen Z shoppers, who are increasingly looking for options to moderate. “Retailers should harness additional sales from shoppers who are keen to “Live Better” without compromising on taste,” suggests Lancaster.

“When merchandising their range, retailers should ensure they’re getting the basics right by stocking a staple range, such as Foster’s, Strongbow Original and Strongbow Dark Fruit – currently the number one and two line extensions in the category, Lancaster advises. “New for this year, retailers should also look to stock Strongbow Rosé, which was launched in March 2020, meeting the demand for lightly flavoured pink and rosé flavours.”

The new cider, with its signature refreshing taste is now the number one rosé cider in the category (Nielsen). It has also been successful in attracting new consumers to the category, with 33% of sales coming from shoppers who did not buy cider in the same period last year (Kantar).

With shoppers looking to trade up as a treat at Christmas time, offering options such Birra Moretti, Amstel, Old Mout and Heineken, is a great way to capitalise on the premiumisation trend. Heineken – a trusted brand, associated with quality – has always been well received by consumers at Christmas. This year, Heineken will benefit from additional exposure, thanks to its role in the release of the latest James Bond movie – No Time to Die – in November.

For no and low options, Heineken 0.0 has swiftly become the fastest growing brand in the segment, with an impressive growth of 58% (Nielsen). Heineken 0.0 responds directly to those who wish to moderate their alcohol intake but still enjoy beer. Alongside Heineken 0.0 is Strongbow Dark Fruit 0.5% which, with an ultra-low alcohol content, provides drinkers with the opportunity to enjoy the refreshing and fruity flavour of Strongbow Dark Fruit with low alcohol.

Norbert Jozsa, Head of Category and Insight – Europe, at Accolade Wines, comments: “The Christmas period is incredibly valuable to wine sales so it’s a huge opportunity for retailers to make the most of. Brands still remain important and are key to attracting people to the category, offering familiarity and trust.”

Accolade Wines is confident that shoppers will still be looking to trade up as we approach Christmas and they look for something special to enjoy during the festivities.

With a portfolio of wines, including Hardys, Mud House, Jam Shed and Echo Falls, Accolade can provide the retail trade with wines that will drive sales when consumers are entertaining or gifting.

We see 1.5x more wine sales and a 2.75x increase in fizz sales during Christmas compared to the rest of the year (KWP) – as well as new customers entering the category. We also see shoppers pay a premium for quality wine at Christmas with average price per litre 4% higher than normal.

What’s more, still wine is the favourite drink to have with Christmas dinner (KWP) and its therefore vital retailers look out for the latest promotions to amplify these in-store.

“To win at Christmas you must understand the key demand moments during the period, such as relaxation times, as well as social and party occasions,” says Jozsa. “A wide variety of drinks are consumed at this time of year, but some are more suited to different occasions. For example, wine lends itself best to eating and relaxing occasions – relaxing at home is the top occasion cited for having a drink over the Christmas period.”

Lockdown has seen many drinking occasions shift back into our homes, and there have been +7m additional off-trade occasions (Nielsen). During this period, we have seen wine benefit more than other categories, due to its heartland occasions, such as staying in as a couple and as an everyday drink, naturally becoming more important during lockdown.

Whilst the on-trade has now reopened, there is still a sense of caution about getting back to normal. In 2019, on average people visited the on-trade 3.4 times during the Christmas period, spending £17 on alcohol per visit (CDA).

“It is still uncertain what Christmas will look like within the on-trade, but it is likely that the off-trade alcohol sector will benefit as we see an increase in in-home occasions,” adds Jozsa. “For this reason, we’re expecting a bumper Christmas for wine sales, with more at home meals and relaxing scenarios than last year.”

“A key theme of last year’s Christmas was uncertainty, with shoppers holding out from spending until the last minute, including a surge for wine sales,” Jozsa continues. “We expect something similar this year due to the current situation, with the main spending to take place in a smaller window of time. We think people will be prioritising family and relaxation time this year, as well as putting more emphasis on making Christmas dinner special – all areas where wine can complement.”

This Christmas, Hardys is so certain that shoppers will love its wine that it is offering a money back guarantee. With over 165+ years of wine making and over 9,000 global awards, Hardys provide consumers with certainty in their wine choice, every time.

Running from 1st October to 31st December, the guarantee is available across all 75cl SKUs, with the offer advertised across 6.5m neck tags in the grocery, convenience, and wholesale channel. The neck tags will make it clear the promotion is run by Hardys, not by the retailer. The campaign will also be supported by in-store POS, out of home advertising and through social media.

The campaign will offer shoppers the reassurance they are looking for, when choosing that perfect wine this Christmas. Hardys is loved by 4.2m UK households and is the most frequently purchased wine brand in the UK, as well as having the highest percentage of repeat shoppers (Kantar).

This winter, Jam Shed will also bring back its mulled wine recipe neck tags, available on its Shiraz product in grocery, convenience, and wholesale. Jam Shed Shiraz makes the perfect base for mulled wine and the recipe is an easy way of creating a special Christmas moment at home.

This year’s campaign will be supported with in-store and digital activity, including online recipe videos to follow at home.

Jam Shed, is the UK’s fastest growing top-50 wine brand and has reported +112.7% value growth year-on-year (Nielsen).

Nick Williamson, Marketing Director at Campari UK, comments: “Christmas is a magical time of the year where 92% of Brits traditionally come together to spend time with their family and friends.”

During the festive season last year, grocery sales reached £21.5bn with 1.2% growth forecast for 2020 (IDG).

“With such a potentially lucrative period on the horizon for retailers, it is vital to prepare ahead of the occasion, with seasonal product displays to help maximise sales and drive revenue,” says Williamson.

With Christmas heralded as a time for indulgence, light and refreshing beverages, such as the Aperol Spritz and Campari Gin & Tonic are perfect for festive occasions.

The Aperol Spritz also invites consumers to use the ever-popular prosecco in a different way. Prosecco remains a big seller, accounting for a majority of the 147m bottles of sparkling wine sold in the UK last year (WSTA) – combining equal parts of prosecco followed by Aperol, a dash of soda water and a slice of orange for garnish.

For consumers who want to add a refreshing twist to their usual drinking habits this Christmas, the Campari Gin & Tonic elevates a tried and tested combination, offering a unique look and bittersweet taste for the season. Retailers can inspire shoppers to make the Negroni, a combination of Campari, gin and red vermouth, at home, helping to add a touch of elegance to a special occasion.

With 42% of shoppers looking to be inspired in-store at Christmas through recipe ideas and inspiration over the season (IDG), retailers have a unique opportunity to upsell during the festive months. Christmas is a time when people are open to making more premium purchases to elevate the occasion so by prominently displaying high-value items such as branded spirits, retailers have an ideal opportunity to increase sales value.

“With Christmas billed as a time for ‘out of the ordinary’ purchases, retailers have greater opportunity to cross-sell based on their customers’ existing shopping habits – for example, suggesting Aperol as an additional purchase for those already shopping for Prosecco, or recommending adding Campari as a seasonal change for those looking to buy gin and tonic components,” Williamson continues. “In preparation for the festive season, retailers should stock up on premium options sooner rather than later, to ensure they have a strong range that caters for consumers looking to enhance their Christmas purchasing experience. This will also help retailers to maximise the festive occasion and encourage spontaneous purchases by highlighting the ’treats’ that may not have been on a shopper’s list.”

James Stocker, Marketing Director at Halewood Wines & Spirits, comments: “During lockdown we’ve seen more and more consumers looking to recreate the bar experience at home. This means that people are becoming much more experimental with their drinks choices, whether that’s with the types of spirits they are buying, or as they look for innovative new flavoured variants which can be used to make impressive, yet easy serves from home.”

As the trend for flavoured gins shows no sign of slowing down, Whitley Neill, the UK’s number one premium gin brand (Nielsen) provides an opportunity to tap into this with its full range of flavours, from Rhubarb & Ginger to Raspberry and Blood Orange.

“Highlighting more creative serves like the ‘Ginsecco’ and merchandising the products next to each other is also a great way of inspiring customers and encouraging additional impulse purchases,” says Stocker.

Whitley Neill’s Limited Edition flavours, such as the recently launched Brazilian Lime and also Strawberry & Black Pepper, tap into the latest flavour trends.

Flavoured and spiced rums are currently worth £470 million and seeing double digit growth (Nielsen). Halewood’s Dead Man’s Fingers Spiced Rum range, which recently saw the additional of new Mango, Hazelnut, Passionfruit, Raspberry, Lime and Pineapple flavours provides retailers with the perfect opportunity to tap into this trend. All new flavours mix perfectly with lemonade for simple serves, or can be used as a base for a range of cocktails. This is ideal for shoppers who have become increasingly experimental with their drinks choices over the last few months and will be looking to continue this experimentation into the festive season.

“Stock a range of gifting options and ensure that they are clearly on display – guaranteeing that customers know that they can purchase quality gifts from your store,” suggests Stocker. “Take full advantage of the full festive season by gearing up from the end of October – this provides more flexibility for consumers and can encourage multiple purchases. Space permitting, inspire customers with a dedicated Christmas display to help encourage additional purchases. This can include creative cocktail/ serve suggestions with the ingredients all clearly grouped together, to help tap into the festive big night in and home entertaining opportunities.”

Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), comments: “Coca-Cola has long been recognised for bringing people together and Christmas is no better time for this to happen.”

Coca-Cola will have strong a Christmas plan consisting of limited editions, on-pack graphics and consumer marketing to support retailers.

“With an estimated 6.1million people now choosing not to consume alcohol, it’s vital for convenience retailers to ensure they stock up with a range of soft drinks options during this time; in particular the Coca-Cola range, which has become synonymous with Christmas,” says Burgess.

“As families and friends celebrate together at home over the festive period, retailers should make sure they offer a wide range of sharing formats for shoppers to choose from to consume in the home,” suggests Burgess.

Sales of large PET bottles and multipack cans of soft drinks grew during lockdown as more people socialised in the home, and they continue to enjoy double digit growth now (Nielsen), a trend expected to see continue for the foreseeable future.

“In addition to this, consumers also look for ‘special’ drinks that capture the excitement of the holiday like sparkling soft drinks, cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails,” adds Burgess. “Retailers should consider the importance of mixers alongside alcohol ranges to help them cater for customers stocking up for their festive celebrations.”

Mixer consumption in the home has grown in popularity since lockdown, with sales up 7% in GB (Nielsen). Schweppes is growing by 22% and delivering the most value growth of any major mixer brand (Nielsen).

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