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Seasonal candy sweetens sales, merch opportunities

BY Barbara White-Sax

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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Celsius expands distribution to Rite Aid

BY Allison Cerra

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. A calorie-burning beverage is finding a home at one of the nation’s leading drug store chains.

Celsius announced Tuesday its beverage line now is available at Rite Aid stores nationwide. Three popular Celsius flavors are available at Rite Aid drug stores: Orange, green tea raspberry acai and green tea peach mango. Celsius will be sold in four-packs and will be found in the diet section of the store.

Celsius also will be featured as part of the Rite Weight Plan, an online 10-week weight management program where consumers can enroll for free. The Rite Weight Plan provides easily accessible online tools to help consumers succeed at achieving their weight management goals.

“We are thrilled to become part of the Rite Aid drug store chain. We commend Rite Aid’s commitment to offering quality healthy beverage products to their customers and we feel that Celsius is a great addition to their merchandise mix,” Kelly Michols, VP strategic sales at Celsius.

Rite Aid currently has more than 4,800 locations in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

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Nestle sinks teeth into Kraft’s frozen pizza business

BY Allison Cerra

VEVEY, Switzerland Nestle has agreed to acquire Kraft Foods’ frozen pizza business in the United States and Canada for $3.7 billion in cash, the company announced Tuesday.

The business includes such brands as DiGiorno, Tombstone, California Pizza Kitchen, Jack’s and Delissio. This frozen pizza business provides a new strategic pillar to Nestle’s frozen food portfolio in the United States and Canada, where the company already has established a leadership in prepared dishes and hand-held product categories under the Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, Buitoni, Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets brands, Nestle said.

Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestle, said: “This frozen pizza business greatly enhances Nestle’s frozen food activities in North America, bringing together a selection of great U.S. and Canadian brands, industry-leading R&D and excellent route-to-market capabilities, which complement our existing ice cream direct-store-delivery. With total sales of around CHF 3 billion, Nestle will become the world leader in the attractive, fast-growing frozen pizza category.”

The acquisition brings leadership in the frozen pizza category, where Nestle only had a minor presence until now, and builds on Nestle’s existing pizza know-how and operations in Europe. It is a natural fit with Nestle’s focus on delivering convenient, premium, wholesome and nutritious frozen food for consumers around the world. The transaction is subject to U.S. and Canadian regulatory approval and is expected to be completed in 2010.

The United States is the largest pizza market in the world with consumer sales of about $37 billion, Nestle said.

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