Olympic promotional activity has got off the blocks and there’s already a clear frontrunner.

Cadbury is no stranger to claiming the gold when it comes to the number of promotions run in a month but it is rarely quite as far ahead of the pack as it was during March.

It increased its featured space promotions - such as gondola ends and pallets - by almost a third compared with the previous month, to 549 [Assosia 4 w/e 1 April 2012], dwarfing rivals Nestlé and Mars despite both also ramping up activity by almost a half month-on-month.

Of course, chocolate suppliers always raise their game before Easter, but the Olympics has given Kraft an even bigger excuse to plug its UK chocolate brands.

Cadbury deals are up by more than a quarter year-on-year, as its Olympic products push rival lines off the gondola ends. By contrast, the number of Nestlé and Mars deals were down 30.8% and 24.5% respectively, year-on-year.

Coca-Cola, another major Olympic sponsor, also warmed up for the games by increasing promotions month-on-month and year-on-year.

Ironically, Cadbury contributed to an overall fall in promotions. “If Cadbury takes up two full gondola ends it results in a drop in the total number of different promotions,” says Assosia MD Kay Staniland.

Other factors - including the all-too brief period of unseasonally warm weather and Sports Relief - have also meant some featured space has been given over to non-promotional activity. “Retailers have been switching space a bit more to highlight products that might not be on promotion but should sell well - such as beer, wines and spirits during warm weather,” adds Staniland.

As also recorded during February, March brought with it a shift towards half-price deals - up seven percentage points year-on-year to 23.5% of all featured space promotions - although straight ‘save’ offers dominate with a 37.9% share, up 3.6 points year-on-year. The biggest increases in half-price deals was in meat, fish & poultry - up 314% year-on-year - and bakery, chilled food and impulse, which doubled their use of the mechanic.

Wholesale prices

Farmed salmon prices soared during the second half of 2011 but have since come down dramatically because strong harvests and increased production have boosted global supply. Farmed salmon is now 30.9% cheaper than this time last year, and ample supplies are expected to keep prices low.

Prawns continue to report strong year-on-year gains - at £3364/tonne, coldwater prawns are now nearly 65% dearer than a year ago, driven in part by concerns over the effect of “killer cod” on West Greenland stocks. Warmwater prawns also remain elevated, with prices up 24.2% year-on-year and up nearly 12% on last month.

The prices of cod and haddock remain under pressure year-on-year - with haddock showing a particularly steep, ie 20.5%, decline - although prices have bucked the year-on-year trend in the past month. Cod was up 8.9% to £2676/tonne, while haddock rose nearly 25%, to £1069/tonne.