The fall and winter holiday season is a time to indulge in foods not usually eaten at other times of the year — pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, egg nog, Hanukkah latkes, Christmas cake — as well as candy and snacks in festive limited-time flavors that reinforce the specialness of the occasions. In fact, providing the right product should be considered the fifth P of holiday candy and snack merchandising.
“Holiday-specific items are an expectation for our customers, so it’s important that we carry a variety of products,” notes Hausmann. “Whether it’s pumpkin spice flavors for fall, or gingerbread for the winter, it’s important to have these items within our assortment. …[T]hese limited-edition products complement our total store holiday merchandising plans.”
“Fall/winter candies and snacks are very important to Tops,” concurs Hausmann’s counterpart for the salty snack category, Russell Daniels. “Salty snacks, with their in/out different flavors, help add variety and incremental sales to the snack business, especially at this time of year, when people are hosting gatherings and wanting to bring something new and different to the table for their guests.”
Accordingly, grocers strive to offer their shoppers an extensive variety of holiday items. “Between our Halloween and Christmas candy, we have a total of 375 SKUs available,” says Larry Pierce, EVP, merchandising and marketing at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based SpartanNash.
“Consumers come to expect and seek out unique seasonal variations of their favorite brands, such as seasonally wrapped or flavored Kisses and Reese’s shapes — pumpkins, trees, etc.,” observes Jan Grinstead, senior brand manager holiday at The Hershey Co., in Hershey, Pa. “These items are highly incremental to our everyday offerings and allow us to fulfill seasonal needs such as trick-or-treating, stocking stuffers or gifting.”
“During the holidays, shoppers seek out their favorite seasonal flavors, like M&M’s Brand White Candy Corn Candies for Halloween, Starburst Jelly Beans for Easter, M&M’s Holiday Mint for Christmas, and Dove Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark for the winter holidays,” notes Tim Quinn, VP of trade development for Chicago-based Mars Wrigley Confectionery.
For Halloween 2017, Mars has a 150-piece Spooky Chocolate Variety Mix bag offering four of its iconic brands, each with a seasonally relevant twist: Snickers XScream, Milky Way Midnight Madness, M&M’s Costume Award Mix and Milky Way SCAREamel; a 170-piece Chocolate & Sugar Variety Mix Bag featuring M&M’s, Snickers, Skittles, Milky Way and, for the first time, Dove Chocolate treat-size bars; M&M’s Brand White Pumpkin Pie Candies Harvest Blend; Maltesers Fun Size in a medium bag; and Starburst Minis Fun Size.
The company’s Yuletide offerings this year, meanwhile, are a Celebrations Brand Bottle filled with individually wrapped miniatures of Bounty, Dove, Milky Way, Snickers and Twix Brands; M&M’s Caramel in seasonal red and green colors; Dove Brand Promises Silky Smooth Milk Chocolate Mint Cookie Gifts; a 4-pack of M&M’s Brand Minis Milk Chocolate Candies in tubes; a Skittles Ugly Sweater Edition in Original and Sour flavors; and a Life Savers 5 Flavor Big Tube.
Among savory snack providers entering the seasonal flavor derby is Crunchmaster, a brand of Loves Park, Ill.-based TH Foods, which is rolling out Pumpkin Harvest crackers for fall, featuring “the savory taste of pumpkin and autumn spices with the goodness of whole grain and flax seeds.”
Seasonal packaging is also part of optimal product presentation at retail. “As we continue to encourage gratitude year-round, the holiday season is always a time for merci to further inspire expressing thanks,” says Kelly Cook, marketing director at Chicago-based Storck USA, maker of the merci line of individually wrapped European chocolates. “This season we are excited to roll out new holiday packaging to appeal to consumers’ gift-giving needs during the season of gratitude. Building off of last year’s holiday momentum, the new packaging elevates the quality and personalized gift-giving chocolate consumers have come to know from merci.”
The popularity of seasonally inspired candy and snack items among shoppers shows no signs of slowing. Observes Craig Spalding, director of marketing for Boulder, Colo.-based 1908 Brands and brand manager for the Thrive Tribe line of Paleo cookies, which offers limited-edition holiday flavors, “I think more brands will be expected to offer holiday-specific flavors to keep customers interested and keep the brand alive and growing.”
Implementing tactics such as punctual planning, optimal placement, unique presentation, attractive pricing and appropriate product for holiday candy and snacks can pay off, as Menasha's Bonn observes: “We’ve found retailers can expect to see a sales boost when using effective merchandising strategies.”