Levi Boorer is Customer Development Director at Ferrero. The Ferrero portfolio includes some of the UK’s favourite confectionery products, extending beyond confectionery into spreads and other sweet packaged foods. The core ranges enable wholesalers to offer market-leading products all year round, with Ferrero launching seasonal lines of its Ferrero Rocher, Collection, Thorntons and Kinder ranges to support wholesalers when category sales peak.

Covid-19 has undoubtedly had a signfiicant impact on the industry. How has confecitonery been affected?

The impact on confecitonery has mainly been on the formats and pack sizes that people are looking for. Sharing has driven growth in the UK confectionery market for a number of years, but its importance is even more prominent now during these uncertain times. Customers are looking to create experiences to enjoy whilst staying at home, whilst also searching for larger pack formats to store in the house.

This popularity has been led somewhat by big night in occasions, which shoppers are increasingly looking to as a way to ease the pressures that they are facing during the week. Many are taking on more than before, with home schooling and an extended working day meaning that a big night in can give a much-needed escape to the sofa. Confectionery is among the categories that can provide a treat during those moments of relaxation and enjoyment. It’s therefore important that retailers can stock products that can add a special feel to an occasion, which will capture their shoppers’ attention. Without the usual opportunities to go out when looking to celebrate or simply relieve a bit of pressure, more exciting treats that can be shared are helping to fill that gap and bring households together.

So which products are the most popular for big nights in during lockdown?

Even though they are happening more often now than ever, big nights in are still a special occasion within a household, so wholesalers should be favouring established brands that give retailers and their shoppers a guarentee of quality, certainty and reassurance.

This has been reflected in the performance of a number of Ferrero’s core lines of boxed chocolates, which are perfect for sharing and are recognised as delivering high-quality, tasty products. For example, our Ferrero Rocher range grew +4.2 in the last four weeks post Easter, with our new-look Thorntons Classic range – which was revitalised last September – growing +11.4% over the same period and +18.1% year on year1.

Even though Thorntons as a brand is synonymous with gifting around key annual occasions, its premium boxed chocolates are most commonly purchased for immediate family members and those within the same household. While this has certainly become more prominent in the last few months, the stable growth of our Thorntons portfolio pre-dates the UK lockdown2, helping to demonstrate that the big night in is expanding to have a more premium feel. While small blocks and sharing bags of confectionery products still play a significant role in the occasion, and will continue to do so, this move towards premium boxed chocolates is showing us that many households are looking to alternative products to give their celebrations at home greater impact

What other factors are driving the confectionery market?

Prior to the disruption and uncertainty seen over the last few months, we were seeing a number of trends developing in confectionery, including demand for alternative formats, different occasions being celebrated and a move towards premium products helping to drives sales and bring growth the the category.

When looking at boxed chocolates alone, premium options were growing more than five times the rate of the category overall, as shoppers are looking for quality over quantity when it comes to confectionery.

Delivering high-quality products in controlled portion sizes ties in with this trend perfectly and has been an important part of Ferrero for many years now, as underlined by our ‘Quality at Heart’ approach.

Beyond that, gifting continues to be a compelling driver of confectionery sales too, particularly with premium products and boxed offerings. Those factors have always been underpinned across the Ferrero boxed chocolate portfolio, where our ranges are recognised as high-quality products that present an ideal gift for a wide range of occasions throughout the year.

To better meet the demand for premium gifting options, we recently revitalised our Thorntons Classic range to give it a premium and contemporary look and feel, as well as offering a range of pack sizes to suit every gifting occasion. The update offers an improved assortment that represents the UK’s most-loved flavours, including the introduction of three new delicious chocolates.

Looking at sugar confectionery, what are the biggest flavours to stock?

The three biggest flavours that consumers are looking for are mint, fruit and extra-strong mint. The Tic Tac core range (Lime & Orange, Strawberry Fields, Fruit Adventure, Intense Mint and Fresh Mint) includes products that suit each of those needs, catering for different shoppers’ tastes.

Our Fresh Mint flavour is arguably what Tic Tac is most recognised for, and the ever-present product has been joined by Intense Mint as part of the core range. Both of these products recognise the growing demand for mint products, and are available as T1 and T100 packs.

As well as carrying the right lines to help retailers stock the most popular products, it is always worth understanding that the sugar confectionery category is generally very impulsive, so product availability is key. This goes for shoppers as well as retailers and, now more than ever, visits to a store or depot have a functional approach with a defined shopping list in place first. By having leading sugar confectionery products readily available in depot, wholesalers can help retailers to stock items that will help their shoppers to treat themselves and add a little extra to their basket.

Tell us about the recent launch of Tic Tac Coca-Cola.

We are very excited about the partnership, which sees us launch the first ‘mint’ with the refreshment of Coca-Cola, bringing two incredibly popular brands together for a limited time. Our T100 packs carry very distinctive packaging that features the Coca-Cola logo, making it immediately clear what flavour the sweets will deliver. By combining the refreshment of the number one soft drink with the instantly recognisable shape and format of Tic Tac, the new product is set to drive increased demand and impulse sales for wholesalers through the summer, and bring more excitement to sugar confectionery.

How do you work with wholesalers?

We understand how important it is for wholesalers to implement visually-striking displays in depot, to encourage retailers to stock up, educate them about new occasions and opportunities, and to contribute to the overall appearance of the space. It is therefore important that we work in partnership with wholesalers and support them with tailored category plans, while also helping them to understand how retailers shop and how to replicate that in depot and online.

Confectionery as a category has a number of key annual peaks – such as Christmas, Easter and Diwali – but there are many all-year-round opportunities and occasions that wholesalers can support too, such as the Big Night In. By helping wholesalers understand these opportunities, and by using our shopper insights to educate retailers in depot, we can help wholesalers with their ranging decisions, supporting the best sellers with seasonal products as appropriate.

How can wholesalers maximise sales of your products?

It is well known that retailers are exceptionally short on time, so anything in depot that helps them to keep their visit efficient and productive is a positive option. That can mean stocking seasonal lines or items on promotion close to the depot entrance to capture attention straight away, but also extends to the aisles themselves. For example, having key brands signposted in depot helps retailers find the products they need quickly. We have seen at previous occasions – particularly at Easter for Kinder – that having relevant POS materials in depot is a great way to remind retailers of the upcoming opportunities, encouraging them to stock up with products from leading brands around those peaks.

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