Easter may have snuck up on consumers this time around, but for fast-growing retailers such as Pana Chocolate, preparing for one of the busiest periods in the year is all in a day’s work.
Pana Chocolate, which turns over more than $5 million and yesterday announced it has become the exclusive chocolate provider for Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, started planning its Easter product line last year.
The company’s raw hot cross buns, Easter-themed gift boxes, rocky road easter eggs and bunnies in the flavour of its chocolate bars have lead to a 50-60% jump in sales for its stand-alone retail outlets for several weeks.
Sales have since doubled in the past week, with sales from distributors – such as independent supermarkets – also seeing strong growth.
Pana Chocolate founder Pana Barbounis told SmartCompany he has noticed more and more people are looking for speciality chocolate as a way to show appreciation or say thank you.
“Even though there’s a lot more people doing what we do [raw products], there’s still a big demand because the market’s growing,” Barbounis says.
“Especially for a vegan product, an organic product, a raw food product. It’s resonates with everyone. Because we tick so many allergy boxes, too, we can genuinely capture anyone.”
Barbounis says he suspects his chocolate bars are flying off the shelves this Easter because they make thoughtful gifts.
“What we’re finding with Pana Chocolate is it’s an experience, not a chocolate,” Barbounis says.
“Easter is a perfect time for it and people are moving away from the traditional egg, but still offering chocolate. It’s guilty-free and no nasties added, which helps as well.”
Barbounis says he signed off on the Easter product range back in November, with production starting immediately after Christmas.
So far, the business is “just keeping up” with demand.
As for how other businesses can get the most out of busy periods such as Easter, Barbounis says it’s all about preparation and understanding your customers.
“Ninety percent of our followers are female, they buy it and it’s the treat for the night,” he says.
“Or they give it to someone else. We try to recreate that experience.”
“You need to have a point of difference”
Chris Thomson, co-founder of Noosa Chocolate Factory in Brisbane, told SmartCompany his business’s chocolate range for Easter was also planned last year.
This is because it takes a substantial amount of time to have chocolate moulds built in Germany and then sent to Australia.
“So last Easter we sat down and had our Easter egg and Easter bunny moulds designed, and next week we’ll sit down and do the same for next year,” Thomson says.
“You need to have a point of difference in comparison to the products in the big supermarket chains.”
Thomson says because the retailer’s chocolate range is handmade, Noosa Chocolate Factory only produced around 500 Easter eggs and 600 Easter bunnies this year.
“We had them on the shelves on Tuesday and we’re just going through the last ones now,” he says.
“Compared to Christmas, Easter products are purchased quite late in the week. In Queensland it’s been a very, very hot month and that’s delayed some purchases.”