One consequence of the lockdown is a strong performance of confectionery products designed to be consumed at home, like multipacks and block chocolate. Similarly, Christmas 2020 may be a good season for gifting confectionery as people will want to celebrate with family after a tough year. Mars has an iconic portfolio of gifting products including Maltesers Box, Maltesers Truffles and Galaxy Truffles. Jo Sinisgalli, Gifting Senior Brand Manager at Mars, looks after this portfolio. She tells Wholesale Manager what effect Covid-19 has had on the confectionery sector and what the Christmas gifting market will look like this year.

What does your role as Gifting Senior Brand Manager involve?

My job is to manage our existing Gifting portfolio, whilst also landing excellent execution of our exciting innovation pipeline. I work closely on the strategy for developing future exciting innovations in the Gifting portfolio.

Can you talk us through your brand portfolio?

Our portfolio consists of anything that would primarily be shared as a gift; for example, the iconic Maltesers Box which is a long-time consumer favourite. Other recent additions include Maltesers Truffles, which launched in 2018 and Galaxy Truffles which launched in 2019.

We’re always influenced by consumer insight for our NPD’s. For example, we know that consumers love the Maltesers brand but wanted something special for gifting moments, which is why we introduced Maltesers Truffles.

What effect has Covid-19 had on the confectionery sector?

It’s no surprise that Covid-19 has had a big impact on the sector. Firstly – and understandably – we’ve seen a reduction in shopper trips as people have followed the stay at home advice. Out of home trips are crucial in driving impulse purchases, such as single format treats and gum, so this area of the confectionery sector has been challenged significantly.

Another shopper trend we’ve noticed during this period is the shift to online for confectionery purchase.

For confectionery, seasons play a very important role in driving sales. Easter this year came at a challenging time and some retailers focussed elsewhere. However, we are beginning to see positive signs of improvement and recovery.

How do you think the Christmas gifting market will look this year?

We’re expecting people to be worried around the impending global recession and therefore less inclined to spend money due to economic and financial concerns.

We’re also conscious of the uncertainty around social gatherings and what will be allowed at Christmas. Right now it’s not clear what Christmas will look like, especially with the risk of a potential second wave. We also expect to see behaviour change amongst shoppers, with many taking advantage of online offerings.

However, on a more positive note what we do know from lockdown is that people need and value human connection more than ever.

Which brands would you suggest wholesalers and retailers stock to target the Big Night In occasion?

In previous recessions, we’ve seen that consumers typically turn to mainstream brands they know and trust. Bearing in mind the economic uncertainty, having a range of products that hit the right price points from brands that consumers know and trust will be key.

Do you have any NPD to talk about?

Off the back of the success of the Galaxy Truffles launch in 2019, our exciting new NPD launch for 2020 will be Galaxy Truffles Caramel. We’ve taken our delicious Galaxy Truffles and added a layer of smooth luscious caramel to the velvety truffle centre. Galaxy Truffles were the number one confectionery NPD at Christmas last year bringing new customers to the boxed chocolates and over 60% incremental1 sales to the category at the time of launch.

Off the back of this success – and the knowledge that caramel is the brands’ biggest and most popular flavour variant – it is a no brainer as to why we’re launching this new SKU for 2020!

What support do you have for your brands at the moment?

Throughout 2020 we will continue to invest in our gifting portfolio and brands moving forward. Although Covid-19 had meant we’ve had to change lots of our brand planning for 2020, we remain resilient and open to adaptation. We know and understand the importance of maintaining investment in these challenging times, especially as we know consumers will be looking to mark the end of a challenging year. For that reason, gifting will be a primary focus this year.

How can wholesalers maximise sales of your products?

1. Advertising deals and promotions across as many media touch points to interrupt journeys as must as possible.

2. Special deals to be all around the depot, not just the confectionary section, to better encourage trial.

3. Ensure price and margin is clearly communicated to retailers as this is the key thing they will be looking for.

4. Highlight the category bestsellers to help guide retailers on best product choices. We’re expecting consumers to turn towards brands that they know and trust, so help retailers priorities the bestsellers.

5. Focus on the availability on bestsellers, especially for online ordering as this can be a key frustration for buyers.

6. Increase signage and displays to drive and champion NPD sales. Whilst consumers will turn to brands they know and trust, NPD is always exciting, especially around seasons! Ensure this is visible by creating great displays.

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