Christmas confectionery not until the first Sunday in Advent
In 2014 the production volume of German confectioners amounted to more than 80,000 metric tonnes of output, especially gingerbread, ginger biscuits and honey cake. Year upon year, these delicious goodies start making their way into German supermarkets in early September – officially as autumn confectionery. After all, it’s a special feature of the German market that Christmas confectionery is limited to the pre-Christmas period, i.e. the season of Advent.
Until then ginger and almond biscuits, cinnamon stars and vanilla crescents are presented in cheerful autumn packaging. It’s a time when customers are lured not by Father Christmases, stars and snowy landscapes, but by special autumn themes, such as reddish-brown leaves, presented nicely to increase the level of temptation after nine months of deprivation. Yet this doesn’t really seem to be true because – contrary to popular opinion – gingerbread is in fact available all the year round, and indeed not just in those well-known centres of the gingerbread industry – Aachen and Nuremberg – but nationwide.
At the beginning of the pre-Christmas season autumn confectionery is officially replaced by Christmas confectionery. This is the time when chocolate Father Christmases are on offer and when sweet Christmas tree ornaments are sold, wrapped up in silver foil. But as well as changing their packaging themes to bells and sledges, some confectioners also vary the proportions of nuts, almonds and oilseeds in their gingerbread. There is considerable demand. In 2014 the confectionery giant Bahlsen alone sold a total of 7,100 metric tonnes of autumn and Christmas confectionery. Other confectioners, too, experience autumn as a highly lucrative period, second only to the pre-Christmas season.
The run-up to Christmas with its cravings for confectionery is equally beneficial to the packaging industry. Preparations for this rise in autumn and Christmas packaging starts as early as June. Multi Packaging Solutions, for instance, in Stockheim is currently producing up to 7,000 packages per hour, made from gigantic sheets of cardboard. The packaging company makes around 900 million confectionery packages per year, ranging from very simple to delicately embossed and glossy prints. The printing plates and punching tools are designed specially for this purpose, and the packages are created accordingly.
As well as recyclable material, there is a demand for flexible machines that allow a quick change of products, so that Father Christmases can be replaced by yoghurt pots within minutes. What is more, the content must not be subject to temperature fluctuations, and it must be immune to smells and discolouring. One reason why chocolate tends to be more expensive before Christmas than in the summer is that there are higher demands on the design, staff numbers, transportation and storage, and it becomes necessary to refit production facilities. It’s a fallacy to think that Christmas is only just round the corner, as companies in the packaging industry are already producing Easter bunnies right now.