Easter, marked by the consumption of chocolate in all shapes and forms, provides a welcome shot in the arm for Switzerland's chocolate business. Sales for seasonal occasions, like Easter or Christmas, are rapidly outstripping normal year-round figures.This content was published on April 13, 2001 - 09:24
Ernst Tanner, chairman and chief executive of Swiss chocolate maker Lindt and Sprüngli, gave no exact sales figures, but underlined the importance of Easter for his canton Zurich-based company.
"Easter together with Christmas are the most important seasons for Lindt and Sprüngli," Tanner told swissinfo. "Although it does depend on which country you're doing business in. For example, Easter is much more important in Italy while in Germany and France Christmas is much more important for chocolate sales."
Seasonally inspired buying for events such as Easter or Christmas is becoming an increasingly important source of income for premium chocolate makers like Lindt and Sprüngli, overtaking normal sales growth.
"More and more people are buying chocolate products as a gift for these events," said Tanner. "And what's more we are creating more events which people want to buy presents for."
Confectionary companies increasingly promote and rely upon a whole range of events, which effectively require the purchase of chocolate gifts. Valentine's Day would hardly be complete without a chocolate heart, while the chocolate egg or bunny is nowadays synonymous with Easter.
Mother's Day is another calendar-driven boom time for chocolate manufacturers, as is Halloween when hordes of "trick or treating" children demand ever more candy. At Christmas, too, festive pralines find their way into many a yuletide stocking.
Chocolate companies often begin their Easter or Christmas production six months in advance to cater for ever more exotic or expensive tastes during the festivities.
However, companies have to keep on their toes and be innovative if they want to hold on to their share of the seasonal market - and Easter is no exception.
"The absolute hottest selling item this Easter is our gold bunny," said Tanner. "It's unique in design and has a real bell around the neck - it's also supported by a sweepstake in which you can win one of six smartcars designed like gold bunnies."
Bunnies, gold or not, are not really that great a design jump from the traditional Easter fare. Overall, said Tanner, shoppers opt for the traditional.
"I think Easter is very much linked to old traditions," he said. "I remember how we, the older generation, used to look so much forward to Easter egg hunts - I think eggs and bunnies are really going to remain the symbol of this event."
Certain things, however, are changing in this traditional market. Easter chocolate shoppers appear to be getting older. This reflects not only the increasing longevity and wealth of grandparents but also their desire to celebrate Easter with their grandchildren in an old fashioned, traditional way.
by Tom O'Brien
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