Chocolate makers stay a hop ahead over Easter
Easter is by far the biggest and most important period for Beyers, the largest independent chocolate maker in SA. So says Kees Beyers, owner and MD of Beyers Chocolates.
"If Easter is 100, then Christmas is 60 and Valentine's Day would be 15," he says.
Easter probably constitutes about 6%-7% of the company's annual chocolate sales, he says. But what he's noted is that demand for Easter bunnies is increasingly for the smaller ones. "We've seen bunnies over the years getting smaller."
Beyers makes bunnies that weigh up to 500g, but it doesn't sell as many of those these days. The most popular size is the 50g bunny. "I really believe it's about rands and cents.
"I think every consumer is under pressure at the moment. Increases people are getting are not keeping up with the cost of living."
According to Who Owns Whom, the South African confectionery market is worth between R11bn and R12bn, with chocolate confectionery accounting for about half of this. Locally, the market share of the three main chocolate manufacturers - multinationals Mondelez SA (which owns Cadbury), Tiger Brands and Nestlé - has contracted because of the growing popularity of premium and handmade chocolates.
More overseas chocolate makers are bringing products into the country, and chocolate imports come in duty free. Sweets are protected by duties, but not chocolates.
"When we export to Europe we pay duty; when they export here it's duty free," says Beyers.
A Euromonitor report says Christmas remains the strongest selling period for seasonal chocolate in SA, followed by Easter.
As a general rule, Mondelez has stronger sales over the Christmas period because of its Cadbury brand, whereas Easter is a stronger period for Tiger Consumer Brands.
Tiger's Beacon chocolates and marshmallow eggs in particular are strong in this category. Beacon sells in excess of 120-million marshmallow eggs over Easter, it said.
Simone van Zyl, senior category brand manager of chocolate at Cadbury, says the most prominent occasion is Christmas, followed by Easter and Valentine's Day. About 9% of annual chocolate sales is achieved during the Easter period, with an average of 8.7% for the past three years.
On the artisanal business side of things, Easter is a high point for handmade Belgian chocolatier Chocoloza, largely for the creativity it triggers for the creators - a team of 13 women based in Johannesburg.
Owner Vicki Bain says they're collaborating for Easter with artist Robin Woolley with his beautiful images of women painted on shweshwe, a printed dyed-cotton fabric. The focus is on women's empowerment, and the shop will donate R5 of every sale to an orphanage. "For what we think is the first time in SA, our Easter boxes are made completely locally sourced, 100% recycled board, and are plastic-free, using corn starch instead of plastic for the windows."