Surprising facts about Easter packaging
Statistics on consumption, materials, recycling, and the chocolate itself
If you buy or are interested in packaging, are concerned about recycling, or are simply a chocolate lover, this collection of Easter packaging facts and figures is for you.
Startling Easter packaging facts include the estimated 4,370 tonnes of card used. The 80-90 million chocolate eggs sold annually in the UK also use 160 tonnes of foil packaging. Packaging is typically a quarter of the total product by weight. 59% of UK adults believe Easter packaging is excessive.
But might the cost of living crisis impact sales in 2023? Are more environmentally conscious consumers going to demand changes to Easter egg packaging? Could supermarket competition actually lead to increased packaging waste? Or will the Plastic Packaging Tax and EPR requirements mean retailers and brands eliminate plastics from their packaging?
Easter packaging facts
Facts and figures regarding Easter packaging in the UK
Here is a collection of striking packaging facts related to Easter eggs and the packaging they generate.
It also looks at consumer spending in the UK over Easter and how this translates into the packaging used.
Consumer activity / spending at Easter
Estimates suggest that between 80 and 90 million chocolate eggs are eaten annually in Britain.
Predictions indicate consumers are likely to spend £415 million on Easter eggs in 2023.
76% of people in the UK associate Easter with chocolate eggs.
An average UK child receives 8.8 eggs each.
When factoring in other gifts, leisure activities, and travelling to see friends and family, 2022 spending on Easter celebrations in the United Kingdom reached 1.3 billion British pounds, up from 1.22 billion British pounds in 2020.
Easter chocolate sales make up 10 per cent of Britain’s annual spending on chocolate.
However, Easter is only the second biggest chocolate-selling period of the year, after Christmas.
Consumers in the UK spent an average of £27.66 in 2020, down by 8% from £30.14 in 2019 (the decrease primarily due to restrictions and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic).
Spending per person was estimated at £26.85 in 2022, a £1.99 increase from £24.86 in 2021. Both figures are lower than pre-COVID-19 spending.
12% of Brits celebrated Easter without spending at all in 2022.
Men reportedly spend more on Easter-related items than women – £29.83 vs £25.77, respectively.
However, more women purchase eggs, and other Easter-themed items, with 65% of women in the UK making seasonal purchases, compared to just 59% of men.
What about the packaging?
Predictably, most UK consumers feel Easter eggs have too much packaging.
Almost two-thirds – 59% – of British adults said that they thought Easter eggs are over-packaged and believe brands should take steps to reduce packaging.
This sentiment is stronger in Europe, with 62% of European consumers indicating they would pay higher prices for food products with less plastic packaging.
In many of the UK’s best-selling chocolate eggs, the plastic and cardboard packaging accounts for over a quarter of the total product weight.
On average, the chocolate itself takes up only 38% of an Easter egg box (by volume).
The charity Oxfam also reports that, on average, 200g of chocolate egg uses 54 grams of card and 2 grams of foil in its packaging.
Assuming all chocolate eggs consumed in the UK were supplied in carton board or corrugated packaging, they use a mind-blowing 9,391.8 sq. miles of material.
A Which? survey conducted in 2018 suggested that Cadbury’s Twirl Large Easter Egg had the least packaging of the major brands (accounting for 18.8% of the total weight).
In contrast, Thornton’s’ Classic Large Egg was the most over-packaged. The cardboard box and plastic accounted for more than a third (36.4%) of the product’s weight.
In total, Easter egg packaging generates more than 8,000 tonnes of waste each year.
Steps businesses are taking to reduce packaging
But what are large brands and retailers doing to address these challenges and the negative perception that comes with them?
Despite the bad press many brands get, here are some figures on how they are trying to address the issue.
Well-known chocolate brands
Thornton’s reduced its Easter packaging by 22% between 2017 and 2018. This change is the equivalent of eliminating 73 tonnes of packaging waste.
Nestle also reported in February (2018) that it had reduced its packaging by around 30%. This change reduces packaging waste by about 700 tonnes – an equivalent weight to 100 double-decker buses.
Even as far back as 2012, Nestle became the first major confectioner to introduce 100% recyclable packaging across its entire range. They also took the step of replacing all plastics with FSC-approved cardboard and compostable film. These changes resulted in a 30% reduction in packaging – equivalent to 48 tonnes.
Nestle also removed the plastic from 20 million Easter egg packs to aid recycling.
And finally, Nestle also redesigned its packaging to make it more compact. Doing so saved 48,000 road miles in transporting their Easter eggs in 2018.
Cadburys, one of the most popular chocolate brands in the UK, also removed more than 6.4 million plastic windows from its eggs (5.4 tonnes worth). They have also committed to using 100% sustainably sourced cardboard.
The makers of favourites, including Dairy Milk, Bourneville, Crunchie and more, have also reduced the amount of plastic casing in small and medium-sized Easter eggs. This change saves around 202 tonnes of plastic, the same as approximately 4.8 million PET bottles.
Of the large retailers, Waitrose announced it has stopped using plastic trays and removed plastic windows from nearly all of its Easter products, with its overall packaging weight reduced by almost 20%. This change saves one tonne of plastic potentially going to landfill.
Asda also indicated that it reduced 98% of the plastic used in its Extra Special Easter egg range (as much as 16 tonnes) and changed the shape of its eggs to better fit the new cardboard packaging.
German discounter Aldi has also committed to removing all plastic packaging from its Easter egg range by switching to pulp trays. Doing so eliminates 24 million pieces of non-recyclable plastic – equivalent to a staggering 900 tonnes.
Marks and Spencer, Mars and Sainsbury’s are among the other companies that have changed their Easter egg packaging.
Easter recycling guides and advice
How to ensure your Easter packaging is properly recycled
Despite retailers’ efforts and growing consumer demands for sustainability, it is still important to try and ascertain the scale of the waste generated at Easter. Several facts and figures highlight the scale of packaging waste.
Packaging waste generated at Easter
Estimates indicate that the 80 million chocolate eggs sold in the UK at Easter generate around 4,370 tonnes of card and 160 tonnes of foil waste.
Despite the packs being mainly recyclable, the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that the UK discards around 3,000 tonnes of packaging each year. This figure used sales volumes in 2016.
The 3,000 tonnes of Easter packaging waste takes 400 large lorries to transport to landfills or recycling centres.
If this 3,000 tonnes of waste is recycled, it saves 1,170,000kWh of energy. This energy is enough to boil 182,813 hens eggs.
In total, the UK produces approximately 11.5 million tonnes of packaging waste annually, a high percentage of this being food and drink packaging.
Easter egg packaging, in reality, contributes a very small percentage of the overall UK domestic (i.e. household) packaging at only 0.266%.
Similarly to Christmas, between 10 million and 20 million greeting cards are sent and received around Easter. These cards add to the mountain of waste and recycling.
How to recycle your easter egg packaging
Thankfully, almost all the packaging from the eggs found in major retailers is now recyclable. The only packaging that is generally non-recyclable is individual chocolate bar wrappers and plastic windows.
The foil wrapped around chocolate eggs is also commonly recycled.
The best way to recycle Easter egg foil is to scrunch it into a fist-sized ball before placing it into your recycling bin. Doing this ensures small bits of foil do not get lost during the recycling process.
However, if the foil has chocolate on it, you should rinse it off first. If it is still too dirty, it is better placed in the waste bin to avoid contaminating the load.
You can place carton board and corrugated boxes used for Easter packaging in your recycling bin. Collapsing them first can leave room for more recycling.
And finally, most plastic that remains in Easter egg packaging is PET 1. PET1, or polyethylene terephthalate, can be recycled by 99% of local authorities. It is the same plastic used to manufacture drink bottles.
Chocolate and Easter consumption facts
Interesting and fun facts on UK chocolate consumption at Easter
Enough about the packaging. What about the important part – the chocolate?
There are several interesting facts regarding chocolate consumption in the UK throughout Easter and beyond.
Easter egg consumption in the UK
65% of people think of chocolate first when asked about Easter.
Consumers spend as much as £415 million on Easter egg chocolate each year in the UK.
Easter egg sales make up 10 per cent of Britain’s annual spending on chocolate.
The 90 million chocolate eggs eaten, if laid side by side, would stretch from the UK to Sri Lanka.
Initially launched in 1971, Cadbury’s Creme Egg is the most popular chocolate egg globally.
The Cadburys factory at Bourneville, which produces Creme Eggs, can make 1.5 million Creme Eggs daily. Five hundred million are made annually, with around 305 million exported to overseas markets.
If you piled all the Creme eggs manufactured each year on top of each other, they would be taller than Mount Everest.
Children’s Easter eating habits
Children are estimated to eat an average of eight chocolate eggs during Easter.
A typical chocolate egg has around 1,000 calories. So a child eating eight eggs consumes approximately 8,000 calories. Put another way, the number of calories is about the same as their total recommended calorie intake for an entire week.
Usually, children eat their eggs within four days.
Surveys show parents spend roughly £25 per child at Easter. A further £31 average spent by grandparents, friends and other family members equates to each child having £56 spent on them.
27% of parents admit to eating their children’s chocolate at Easter.
This figure rises to 80% in the USA, although maybe they are simply more honest!
And finally, 76% of people eat a chocolate bunny by biting their ears off first.
Chocolate eating throughout the rest of the year
The UK is joint fourth in the world league of chocolate eating, based on weight per capita, behind only Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
On average, each person in Britain eats almost 9.5 kg of chocolate per year.
Fairtrade chocolate sales accounts for around 12% of all UK chocolate sales, equivalent to £542m each year.
The Ivory Coast in West Africa is the World’s largest cocoa producer, supplying 43 per cent of the total.
The organisation “Make Chocolate Fair” believes up to two million children may work on cocoa plantations in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Around a quarter of these are likely to be in exploitative conditions.
Weird and wonderful chocolate facts
Historical and unusual facts on chocolate
You wouldn’t expect an article on Easter eggs and not to see some interesting, historical and frankly bizarre facts on one of the nation’s favourite treats?
Chocolate facts and figures
The first chocolate factory in Britain started production in 1657.
The first solid chocolate bar was developed by JS Fry & Sons, going on sale in 1847.
The Cadbury brothers produced their first bar of chocolate in 1849.
Milk chocolate, as you know it today, was not available until after 1875, when Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter developed the recipe.
1875 was a good year for chocolate, as it also saw the introduction of Cadbury eggs.
Around £415 million is spent on Easter egg chocolate each year in the UK, around 10% of the yearly total.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Tosca in Italy created the largest chocolate Easter egg ever. It weighed 7,200 kg and had a circumference of 19.6 m.
Thorntons made the World’s largest chocolate bar to celebrate their 100th birthday. It was around 6 tonnes in weight, which is equivalent to 75,000 of their standard-size bars.
The most expensive Easter egg on sale in 2016 was by Brighton chocolatiers Choccywoccydodah, costing £25,000.
Consumers report seeing Cadburys Creme eggs and Mini eggs in some supermarkets as early as 19th December.
Other Easter facts
Other interesting and unusual facts and figures regarding Easter
Besides the all-important chocolate and its packaging, there are numerous other unusual Easter facts, traditions, and statistics.
Little-known Easter facts
Although considered a Christian tradition, there is evidence that the giving of eggs originated in medieval Europe. People gave eggs as a symbol of fertility and rebirth.
Similarly, many believe “Easter” derives from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre.
Again delving back into history, the Easter bunny appears to have originated in Germany during the Middle Ages. The first story of a rabbit (later named the “Easter Bunny”) hiding eggs in a garden was published in 1680. Dutch settlers took the tradition to the United States in the 1700s.
Another US tradition is “The White House Easter egg roll” event. This event has been celebrated by the President of the United States and their families since 1878 after children approached President Rutherford B. Hayes to ask about a possible Easter egg roll. He loved the idea, and it’s since become an annual White House event.
Florida hosted the largest-ever Easter egg hunt in 2007. A whopping 9,753 children participated, searching for 501,000 eggs.
It is important to remember that chocolate can be harmful to pets. It contains a chemical called ‘Theobromine’, which is toxic to dogs, cats and horses.
Besides all the chocolate, around 20 million packs of hot cross buns are sold annually in the UK.
Estimates put total sales of hot cross buns at around £153.1 million in 2019.
Besides eating copious amounts of chocolate and treats, many people spend time with families and friends over the Easter holidays. However, in Germany, it is technically illegal to dance on Good Friday out of respect for the religious holiday.
In Norway, it is traditional to read crime stories over Easter weekend. This unusual custom dates back to 1923, when two authors promoted their new crime novel by taking out an advert on the front page of a popular Norwegian newspaper.
Excessive Easter packaging
A backlash against environmentally unfriendly packaging and waste
Considering the more serious facts, is the perception of Easter packaging warranted?
The growing consumer backlash against the perceived environmental impact of excessive Easter packaging has meant the most prominent brands have been modifying their approach.
Brands now balance a desire for less material overall, reduced use of plastics and cellophane, and smaller overall footprints against the potential on-shelf impact the packaging must provide.
Brand standout and presentation are still critical drivers for consumers when choosing an Easter egg, particularly as most are purchased as gifts.
The forgotten aspects of Easter packaging
Despite the media’s focus on the “product packaging” seen at Easter, it is easy to forget other aspects of packaging throughout the supply chain.
Firstly, as products must reach retail outlets in pristine condition, suitable transit packaging is required.
Interior fixtures and fittings which can give the outer box strength, shape and rigidity are also often overlooked, even though they are integral to the packaging.
Besides this, cardboard POS and FSDUs are commonplace at this time of year, helping brands win impulse purchases and stand out from competitors.
What about the Plastic Packaging Tax and EPR?
HMRC introduced a new plastic packaging tax in April 2022. The new regulations make all manufacturers or importers of plastic packaging subject to a surcharge of £200 per tonne of plastic used unless it contains at least 30% recycled content.
This tax has significantly impacted the packaging large confectioners choose to use, with many switching to entirely paper-based packaging to avoid additional costs.
HMRC introduced the new tax to encourage moving away from single-use plastics and investment in the infrastructure to allow for increased recycling of plastic materials.
The upcoming Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) also affects businesses using packaging that enters household recycling streams. These packaging producers are responsible for the full cost of recovery and recycling in addition to the existing Packaging Waste Regulations. The introduction of tiered fees also sees costs increase for plastics compared with easier-to-recycle materials.
In certain areas, businesses may pass the added costs incurred by the new taxes to consumers. However, the competitive nature of the chocolate market means that as far as Easter egg packaging is concerned, manufacturers are likely to absorb the costs themselves.
Corrugated Easter packaging
Sustainable and eco-friendly Easter packaging materials
Your business can work with GWP to source a wide range of free-standing display units (FSDUs) and Point of Sale (POS) units for use in competitive retail environments.
Other options include “shelf ready” packaging that your stockists can simply open and put on the shelf, reducing time spent unpacking and merchandising.
GWP has worked with brands including Bendicks, Tesco, Russell & Atwell (who appeared on the BBC show Dragon’s Den) and several smaller independent food producers.
Why corrugated packaging is environmentally friendly
Despite many common misconceptions, corrugated packaging is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of packaging – if managed correctly.
Most people assume that the World’s forests are being destroyed to make paper. In truth, the material comes from sustainably managed forests, including FSC® (Forestry Standards Commission), which would not exist without the materials they provide.
As well as this, corrugated cardboard and similar paper-based packaging have a recycling rate of 84% in the UK, the highest of any packaging.
Every four months, recycling corrugated cardboard saves an area the size of Greater London from landfills. Recycling cardboard up to 20 times before its fibres become too weak for further use is possible. The 16% of corrugated material that is not recycled is fully biodegradable.
Considering Easter packaging at home or at your business
While selecting your Easter eggs from the supermarket or enjoying some well-deserved chocolate over the bank holiday, please don’t forget the impact of your packaging and how you can recycle it.
Alternatively, if you are a business and have a packaging requirement this Easter, please get in touch with a team member at GWP.