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The Easter season represents a significant opportunity for chocolate manufacturers in countries of Christian tradition, specifically in Europe and the Americas. Family gatherings during the festive season typically include the consumption of seasonal chocolate in which the Easter egg and seasonally-themed chocolate boxed assortments are the prime confectionery formats.
Easter-themed chocolate offers an important opportunity to manufacturers for two reasons. The additional seasonal promotional activity encourages consumers to buy more chocolate as many of the products are positioned as limited edition and/or novelties. The highest consumption of seasonal chocolate occurs in Western Europe where the category accounted for 11% of total chocolate confectionery retail volume in 2012. However, the maturity of the category has meant that it is only likely to grow by 4% over the 2012-2017 period. This sluggish growth is not
specifically for Easter but other seasonal occasions such as Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day which have all been fully commercialised in Western Europe. Evidence of this can be seen by comparing Western Europe’s high per capita consumption of 0.6kg against other Christian regions such as Eastern Europe, which only consumed 0.1kg.
Seasonal periods such as Easter also allow manufacturers to experiment with new formats and flavours. This allows them to test the ground for larger scale innovation at a relatively low cost. Recently, the industry has focused on increasing the added value of seasonal chocolate by launching premium lines targeted at the adult segment. In Italy and France, Ferrero and Lindt have introduced Easter egg ranges which have higher cocoa contents and feature premium packaging that differentiates them from traditional children lines.
Interestingly, the current economic situation is encouraging chocolate producers to complement this premium strategy with innovations that offer indulgence at reasonable prices. Offering value for money and achieving visibility in shelves is becoming a key concern for French chocolate manufacturers. Ferrero Group has extended its seasonal chocolate range by offering a 24-unit pack of Kinder Chocolate in France allowing consumers to lower their spend per unit. Average prices for chocolate confectionery in France have risen by 4% in constant terms over the 2007-2012 period. If the economic situation worsens, there will be an increasing need for French consumers to limit the impact on household budgets of discretionary expenditure on indulgence products.
In North America, the US represents a different story entirely. Penetration of seasonal chocolate is relatively low by European standards with per capita consumption totalling just 0.2kg in 2012. This represents only 5% of the total per capita consumption for chocolate confectionery. Interestingly, per capita consumption of seasonal chocolate confectionery in the US is projected to decline by 9% over the 2012-207 period. This is primarily due to obesity concerns over a product which is typically high in sugar. US chocolate confectionery manufacturers are
seeking to reverse these fortunes by increasing investment in added-value innovation and premium Easter-themed chocolate boxed assortments lines such as Fannie May Meltaways Eastern Pastel are increasingly common on the shelves of US supermarkets.
Having both a predominantly Christian population and rapidly growing urban middle class, Latin America represents the biggest opportunity for makers of seasonal chocolate. Sales are projected to rise by a robust 22% in retail volume over the 2012-2017 period and this growth is being driven by middle-class urban consumers. One key example of seasonal chocolate’s dynamic performance in Latin America could be found in Argentina where seasonal chocolate posted a retail volume growth of 4% in 2012. Demand was mostly driven by the popularity of local brands like Bon o Bon (Arcor SAO) which is regarded as both high in quality and relatively affordable.
Despite the differences in regional growth and range of products on offer, seasonal chocolate is regarded by the industry as a crucial period for experimentation in packaging, flavour and fillings concepts for the entire chocolate confectionery sector. Transferring the lessons learnt in seasonal confectionery into the main confectionery lines is pivotal in achieving longer-term success for the wider product portfolio.