Spurred on by last year's success in driving up value during the heavily discounted Christmas and Easter periods, companies have once again been busy developing products that can command higher prices and won't fall victim to deals from the supermarkets to drive footfall.

Graham Walker, sales communications manager at Nestlé Rowntree, is aware of the important role that price plays in getting consumers to part with their cash and says the company has worked hard, particularly with its Easter egg products, to justify a higher price tag.

"Price is always a major factor in attracting shoppers, we can't get away from that, but we are trying to bring back value in the way we innovate and in packaging. Standard Easter eggs will be heavily traded but ­research has shown that shoppers are willing to pay more for them."

George McLearie, trade marketing manager at Bendicks, adds: "There is a drive towards value for money for the consumer, but there is also an opportunity to get the message across that there is value in premium products. At Christmas and Easter, when people buy gifts for friends and family, the fact that they spend more reflects positively on them. Price has a part to play, but there are other aspects too."

According to Walker, there are two types of shopper during the Easter period - those who buy for their loved ones and those who buy for their children - and it is the latter that the company is concentrating on with its £3.99 eggs, which it says fill the gap between those sold on discount and more premium products.

The £3.99 range has a fun theme, and includes a Smarties egg with colouring sets and a Kit Kat 70th birthday mug. "We expect these to be sold at full value," says Walker.

The company has also been busy with its Christmas ranges, where the main developments focus on its After Eight and Quality Street brands. It is flying in the face of the popularity of dark chocolate with a milk chocolate variant of After Eight, but it is also launching bags of the brand in milk and its traditional dark format to take it into more informal sharing.

Nestlé is also launching two 245g selections of Quality Street in flavours that echo its Pizazz range, which was axed after a lack­lustre debut last Christmas. A Caramels, Toffees & Fudge selection box will feature toffee apple, treacle toffee, crème caramel and banoffee flavours alongside favourites such as toffee finger and toffee penny, while a Chocolate & Nut box will include new chocolate chunk, truffle and hazelnut cream varieties.

Cadbury Trebor Bassett, meanwhile, is following a similar line with the launch of its Roses Premium Truffle selection for Christmas. The individually wrapped chocolates feature hazelnut praline and truffles with roasted almonds, as well as milk and dark variants.

For companies traditionally operating at the premium end of the category, it is easier to add value, but companies must not become complacent, warns Mark Palmer, marketing director at Green & Black's.

"The key to success is delivering products that are great value but at full price. Retailers are looking to premium brands to charge full price. The degree of promotions on mainstream lines is so vast that the premium end can offer bigger margins, so it is in their interest not to overpromote them. But these types of products need to be able to justify their price."

Green & Black's is bringing out a selection box of 12 miniature bars in various flavours, which it hopes will fulfil the criteria.

Outside the two main events of Christmas and Easter, developments are less active, although companies are looking to exploit more gifting occasions.

Andrea Taylor, trade relations manager at Masterfoods, says that the end-of-term present for teachers is now on the seasonal list and the company is using its Maltesers brand to tap into this occasion and others, such as Mother's Day.

But she offers a word of caution expressed by many of the big players when it comes to tailoring products for occasions outside of the two main gifting seasons.

"It is an area of interest to us, but the caveat is the risk of residual, left-over product when it comes to bespoke packaging," says Taylor.

"If you give a limited lifetime to a product by producing specific packaging you could lose sales after the event, so we need to look at packs and occasions that are the most relevant."

McLearie takes a similar view: "Brands do perform significantly better at peaks, but end of term is now a significant opportunity, as are Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, and more events are being recognised.

"You have to have products for different occasions, but the trick is to identify the most relevant trends. There is a limit to how some of the more premium brands can do this."

Both Kraft and Nestlé Rowntree have used this tactic to good effect in the past. Toblerone, for example, has specific packaging for Father's Day and Valentine's Day, with packs carrying pictures of stereotypical Father's Day presents, such as ties. Yorkie has adopted a similar stance with packs for Valentine's Day that carry the message 'You're my chunky hunk'.

Hallowe'en is another area into which companies have made tentative moves.

Nestlé Rowntree did have some Hallowe'en activity in 2005, but it says it has no specific plans for this year.

Mike Tipping, head of customer relations at Cadbury Trebor Bassett says Cadbury does not recognise Hallowe'en as a viable gifting occasion. "Although there is stuff being done for Hallowe'en, it still doesn't have the same resonance that it has in the US. We do not produce for Hallowe'en, because it is only one day."

Smaller companies are less frightened by the event. Premium company Hope and Greenwood is launching spooky products for the day, with jelly lines such as Bloody Flies and Char-grilled Skeletons with Chillies. Its specially created boiled sweets lines are even more offputting, with ominous-sounding flavours such as goldfish, pickled onion, cheesy feet and bubble bath making an appearance.

Cartoon sleuth Scooby-Doo is also making an appearance in products from both Bon Bon Buddies and Mr Lucky Bags.

Bon Bon Buddies is launching a Scooby-Doo coffin-shaped box filled with sweets, while Mr Lucky Bags has created a Scooby-Doo bumper party pack that contains sweets and toys.n