The Christmas confectionery tins have hit stores earlier than last year, with Cadbury running nearly 90% more deals than in 2009, says Alex Beckett

There is only one season retailers are bothered about at the moment and it's nothing to do with mists and mellow fruitfulness.

In the past month, all the supermarkets have started rolling out their Christmas ranges, kicking off with selection tins of chocolates.

Nestlé replaced Birds Eye in top spot with a hefty 43.1% increase in deals month-on-month thanks largely to the roll-out of its Quality Street tins, which have been front of store in many of the multiples. The company said in July it was encouraging retailers to launch the tins earlier in the year "as they can be used to stretch the season".

Despite the push, year-on-year, the number of Nestlé deals was up just 1.5%, compared with a massive 89.7% hike for Cadbury, whose Heroes and Roses tins have also boosted its deals 23.5% month on month. However, the Kit Kat maker has been offering a bigger saving than Cadbury compared with a year ago.

The third key player in confectionery, Mars, does not even break into the table even though its Celebrations tins are on offer for £5 at Asda and Tesco.

Assosia MD Kay Staniland confirmed the Christmas deals were on offer earlier than last year. "The £5 or £6 deals on tins usually come later in the autumn," she said.

In the four weeks to 19 September, Assosia data shows the biggest rise in promotions coming from brands most associated with festive food, while overall promotions edged up by 4% to 8,120.

Confectionery accounted for 5.5% of deals last month, but beers, wines and spirits remained the most heavily promoted category, accounting for 18.4%. Bakery accounted for 6.1% of all promotions, up from its 4.7% share of a year ago.

The country's top-selling mince pie brand, Mr Kipling, has risen six ranks to ninth with a 45% increase in promotions the biggest monthly increase on the table and up a hefty 71% on last year.

Meanwhile, 2.6% of last month's promotions were in the crisps, nuts and snacks category.

Staying in eighth place, Walkers kicked off its Rainy Days marketing campaign last week, launching new promotional packs in store. While the offers on its Extra Crunchy sharing bags have finished, Asda and Tesco have been running special offers on its lunchbox-friendly 26-packs to tie in with the back-to-school season.

Walkers also offered the best saving compared with a year ago, although on average the level of saving was down 2.2% on last year. All of the brands provided a better saving compared with last month.