Brands are doing their best to make the shopping seasons longer, while bogof is making its mark – especially at Tesco. Vince Bamford reports

The run-up to Easter egg season made March a cracking month for confectionery deals.

Cadbury, Nestlé and Mars all increased the number of featured space promotions they ran in the four weeks to 4 April [Assosia] as retailers and suppliers ramped up efforts to pull forward the start of the Easter sales period.

"Seasons are running longer," confirmed Assosia MD Kay Staniland. "Easter certainly started earlier this year."

Mars has particularly upped its game when it comes to Easter egg promotions, with its total number of confectionery deals up 57.3% on the same ­period last year.

X-for-y was the most popular mechanic. Cadbury eggs were on x-for-y at all the big four retailers, although they were on bogof at The Co-op Group.

There were fewer straight savings deals on all three chocolate brands particularly Mars, which reduced the proportion of its deals using the save mechanic by 12.9 percentage points to 31.5%.

The confectioners were not alone in increasing their activity. With the exception of Walkers crisps, there were more offers on all the brands in our list of the top ten promoters than in February.

Müller has upped activity by 59.6% month-on-month, with Müllerice offered on buy-one-get-two-free. Kellogg's and McVitie's both upped activity by about 77%, with the latter increasing its use of bogofs from 17.3% to 40.6%.

Greater use of bogof was a trend seen across many brands during the month with the proportion of all brand promotions using it increasing from 7.8% in March 2010 to 10.9% in March 2011 but its use at one retailer was particularly marked.

Tesco has increased its number of featured space bogofs from 196 in March 2010 to 487 this year, while its use of half-price and save offers has fallen. Coca-Cola, McVitie's and Mr Kipling were among the brands offered on ­bogof at Tesco stores.

Retailers have also made a big push on own-label lines, with the number of promotions on own-­label goods up 19.1% month-on-month and 23.2% year-on-year.

The increase has been driven by offers on fresh produce, with the total number of promotions in the category rising from 350 in March 2010 to 530 in 2011. Year-on-year, Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco all roughly doubled the number of own-label fresh produce deals ­on-shelf in March.