Chocolate resilient, seafood sales buoyant, as Easter entices food spend

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 9th April 2009

Australians have taken their love of chocolate to a whole new level this Easter as they find solace in comfort foods, the Australian National Retailers Association has advised.

“Retailers are experiencing double digit growth in sales of all things chocolate this year,” ANRA CEO, Margy Osmond, reported. “The talk of rising unemployment and economic doom and gloom, certainly has its effects on people’s morale, and treats like chocolates help provide that much needed boost.”

“Our members are noticing that people are getting in early this Easter and it’s not necessarily because they’re organised. It appears that more chocolate is being eaten before the Easter Bunny even arrives,” Mrs Osmond remarked. “(And) it’s not just the Easter bunny that is popular this year. A cast of characters including Dora the Explorer, Ben10, Hannah Montana, Bob the Builder and My Little Pony will be delivering chocolate treats this Easter.”

chocolate swirl - Cadbury

Mrs Osmond added that the most prominent products on consumer shopping lists had so far been the Cadbury Creme Egg, Red Tulip solid eggs, Cadbury rabbits, egg crates and the Lindt gold bunny.

“There is affection for confection at both ends of the price range. Handmade chocolates are also walking out the door,” she said. “In these final days we’ll see consumers do the last minute dash to buy eggs for gifts so we’ll see larger eggs and gift packs begin to move more quickly.”

The prospect of a happy Easter for manufacturers and retailers has been boosted by the additional 20 day lead-in this year as well as cooler conditions, however, IBISWorld General Manager (Australia), Mr Robert Bryant, has advised that some people will streamline their Easter celebrations – with total retail spending forecast to fall by 0.8% from last year; to $1.3b.

“We’ll see many more families celebrating with a family meal at home, rather than eating out, and kids who may have previously received chocolates as well as other toys and merchandise may find that the Easter Bunny has gone back to basics this year,” he said.

While chocolate will remain a popular Easter treat, Mr Bryant said earlier this week that spend is forecast to drop by 1.8% to $165.17 million, although the fall will represent a shift from premium products to high-volume generic brands rather than a decline in consumption. IBISWorld forecasts chocolate will account for $142.05 million of the overall confectionery segment’s $165.17m Easter haul.

“Easter is the key holiday for the chocolate industry, accounting for 75% of all holiday chocolate spending,” Mr Bryant noted. “And while total spending will be down, the fact consumers will be selecting generic brands will benefit some of our domestic producers, such as Cadbury and Nestle, rather than the imported Swiss and Belgian chocolate varieties.”

Other notable trends for Easter 2009 include:

Dining/Food and Beverage

IBISWorld anticipates a 7.8% reduction in the number of people eating out this Easter, as families substitute full-service restaurants for barbecues and at-home entertaining. Hot cross bun sales – considered an Easter staple despite the economy – will rise by 4.1%, and spending on fish and seafood will enjoy a 3.5% spending spike.

“Good Friday is of course the key day for seafood consumption, and Salmon, Trout, Snapper, Whiting and Prawns are likely to be the most popular items this Easter,” Mr Bryant predicted.

While total retail spending will be down, it is expected we will invest 4.8% more on food and non-alcoholic beverages, bringing spending to $308.15 million. Liquor retailers will also receive a 2.2% boost, taking in $120.37 million, mainly due to the increase in family based gatherings, as well as the closure of pubs, clubs and taverns.