A Winning Combination

Fruit and chocolate represent a potentially powerful pairing for retailers and manufacturers.
Developing new fruit-added line extensions is proving, well, fruitful in food and beverage categories such as cereal and granola bars. According to a June 16, 2003, article in Newsweek, for example, Berry Burst Cheerios was General Mills’ most successful launch ever. Even beverages ranging from fitness waters to rum and vodka are boasting new fruit flavors. And the addition of fruit has allowed marketers to up retail prices by as much as 10 percent in some categories.  
All of which suggests that the pairing of fruit and chocolate — as in chocolate-covered fruits and fruit pieces — provides a significant confectionery growth opportunity for mainstream (and specialty) retailers.
The Imperatives
Cordials aside, the category of fruit-filled confections is an emerging one, so it may require a bit of extra TLC from retailers. There are margins comparable to those for traditional premium chocolates to be had, but retailers and manufacturers must work together to help generate consumer awareness and trial.
Retailers need to nurture this section. One of the keys is to display products in such a way that the consumer perceives that it is a premium confection section, not merely a random smattering of interesting, somewhat upscale items. A potpourri of single SKUs from 15 different brands may prevent the consumer from perceiving the premium chocolate section as a section.
Industry watchers have cited a “class goes mass” trend in which consumers are seeking out distinctive, “classy” merchandise from mass merchandisers, and distinctive fruit-filled confections can fill the bill here. Even that most mainstream of American retail institutions, Wal-Mart, has added a four-foot gourmet chocolate section in more than 600 stores.
Merchandise the new, upscale fruit and chocolate combos with other premium chocolate brands such as Lindt, Ghirardelli, Perugina and Toblerone, to cite just a few examples.
How about a little attention, pu-leeze? Sometimes retailers turn over all their store circular promotion space to the mainstream brands. If this new category is to live long and prosper, it will need some help attracting shoppers’ attention.
The market for fruit-filled confections, including cordials, is currently estimated at about $70 million. The addition of well conceived new products should easily take retail sales over the $100 million mark within the next two to three years.

Merchandising Musts
Position fruit-filled chocolate confections in-store with other premium chocolates.
Consumers are still being educated about these offerings. Retailers can help them develop new shopping habits.
Create brand blocks.
Grouping at least three SKUS per brand together on the shelf draws the consumer’s eye. It is more visually compelling to group high-value confections in a square of shelf space rather than just stringing them along in a lengthy row across one shelf.
Create multi-brand, multi-vendor endcap displays to show off an assortment of prestige products.
This will allow a promotion to achieve the retailer’s needs for total volume, while also enabling smaller brands to get access to valuable promotional vehicles.