Thought Easter was all about chocolate? Think again. Easter toys have been a key sales driver in Europe for years and now the trend is taking off here.

“Toys make a perfect gift for Easter,” says Frederique Tutt, toy industry analyst for consumer market research company The NPD Group. “Toys sales peak every holiday and Easter is the largest occasion outside Christmas.”

In fact, toy sales were 35% higher over Easter 2012 than at any other time in the first quarter of 2012 [NPD]. “If we compare Good Friday week to a random week in January, toy sales are 70% higher,” says Tutt.

While UK manufacturers may draw the line at launching Easter-only toys - “the difficulty lies in the very short timeframe in which to sell the products, and the risk is perceived as too high in the UK”, says Tutt - this year, manufacturers are cashing in on the trend by combining toys with their chocolate offering.

Easter Egg Hunt kits hit Thorntons’ shelves for the first time this month, complete with character masks, footprints and direction arrows. Lindt has launched fluffy bunny ears and a rabbit hutch alongside its hollow bunnies, while Kinder has launched a Chocolate Colouring Kit combining activities with ‘perfect portion control’. The Ferrero-owned brand has also added lamb toys to its 100g Kinder shell eggs.

However, as Levi Boorer, customer development director for Ferrero, says: “Merchandising is key to maximising growth.” And as well as improving merchandising, retailers would do well to expand their ranges, say experts.

“There are five million kids aged three to nine in Britain,” says Tutt. “If one in eight was getting a toy egg this would mean 625,000 toys. The average price paid for a toy at Easter is £6.42, so potentially the market is worth £4m at retail. But if you replace every other chocolate egg with a toy egg, then the figures become more interesting.”

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