Cleveland — The Halloween season is upon us, and while there is much debate across the country about what it will look like, the vast majority of people are holding firm that they will find a way to prioritize safety and at the same time bring a little fun to the fall. Brand new consumer research from the National Confectioners Association found that 80 percent of respondents believe that people will find creative and safe ways to celebrate the Halloween season this year. This is up from 63 percent in July.
“I think people will be cautious, but they will go out and have fun,” Ellen Gordon, chairwoman, president and CEO of Tootsie Roll Industries Inc., tells Candy & Snack TODAY. “So far things are stepping up nicely. There is a lot of excitement, so I’m optimistic.”
This sentiment is shared by U.S. consumers, as 74 percent of millennial moms and young parents believe Halloween is more important than ever this year.
In addition to being an American tradition, Gordon explains Halloween is a very important part of childhood development.
“It is very good for the imagination. Halloween gives people the chance to pretend to be Superman or Wonder Woman,” she says. “It is a wonderful institution. It fits in perfectly with the idea of candy being a pleasurable, fun treat to share too.”
Building on this positive sentiment, Spangler Candy Co. President and NCA Chairman Kirk Vashaw expects Halloween to be bigger than ever this year.
“COVID has stolen childhood from kids this year. From no school, to no parades, to no big family events, to no sporting events, to no big birthday parties, it has been a bummer,” he says. “Americans will try to make up for some of this loss at Halloween.”
Noting consumers have already begun planning creative and safe ways to celebrate Halloween, Peter Goldman, Ferrara Candy Co., Inc. vice-president of seasonal confections, says: “It will certainly look and feel different this year, but consumers remain optimistic about one thing: Halloween is happening.”
Goldman’s sentiments on change are shared by consumers, as Mondelez International, Inc. relays to Candy & Snack TODAY that 82 percent of Americans believe Halloween will look somewhat different than in previous years.
Edward J. Seibolt, vice-president of sales and business development for Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc., says that while there will be differences across the country on how communities and households celebrate, candy sales are roughly on pace with 2019.
In fact, it seems consumers are getting an even earlier start to the season this year, according to Chuck Raup, U.S. president for The Hershey Co.
Consumers Are Stocking Up Early
It is apparent that the public’s appetite for Halloween classics has not waned during the pandemic. Hershey reports sales for the most popular Halloween pack types, like assortment bags and snack sizes, have grown more than 12 percent across markets during the pandemic, while early retail takeaway shows category sales up 27 percent compared to this time in 2019.
“As retailers set aisles and secondary merchandising locations for Halloween, we are seeing snack size and medium assortments as the early drivers of seasonal candy purchases,” Raup says, adding that 37 percent of Halloween sales occurred before October during 2019.
Congressional Candy Caucus Excited for Halloween
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), who co-chairs the Congressional Candy Caucus, notes that while celebrations might look different this year, she is certain there will be an outpouring of creative ideas to ensure fun and safe celebrations.
“Halloween is always a fun time for kids and families across the country, and I want them to be able to celebrate the holiday while keeping our communities healthy,” Walorski tells Candy & Snack TODAY. “I have no doubt Americans will still be able to wear scary costumes, enjoy their favorite sweet treats, and create lasting memories this October.”
Creativity Abounds In Celebration Plans
While perennial Halloween favorites are seeing strong sales, how they’ll be given out this year will likely be different, but the holiday will still be great, according to Anthony Trani, Bazooka Candy Brands’ vice-president of global marketing and innovation and chairman of The Confectionery Foundation.
“One thing we have seen throughout the pandemic is people getting very creative with the time they have with each other,” Trani says, noting the candymaker is partnering with social media influencers this year to spread new ideas for celebrating Halloween.
He adds creative ideas can be drawn from other confection-centric holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Easter, such as turning an Easter egg hunt into a backyard candy hunt.
“With the emphasis on being remote and socially distant, we think gifting will be a lot bigger this year,” Trani continues. “For example, a great idea we are hearing about is called ‘booing,’ which can be leaving candy and gifts on a doorstep or a friendship exchange similar to Valentine’s Day.”
Jeff Rubin, CEO of IT’SUGAR, concurs that gifting will be on par with past years as consumers will want to celebrate the holiday with family and friends.
NCA Vice-Chair Paul Chibe, CEO of Ferrero U.S.A., Inc., tells Candy & Snack TODAY there will be a focus on home parties and celebrating in the “learning pods” that have been set up in many schools during the pandemic.
“I am also hearing people will trick-or-treat, but in a safe way with the candy set out or in a special bag that has a few treats in it that kids can take. People are going to be creative and make it a fun and special day,” he explains.
Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S., LLC and Hershey are offering up virtual experiences with inspiring celebration ideas.
Additionally, Mars Wrigley’s Treat Town gives consumers the chance to trick-or-treat digitally for candy credits that can be redeemed at participating retailers for products.
“The virtual Mars Wrigley Treat Town Halloween experience demonstrates how we’re reinventing our business to bring better moments and more smiles to consumers” says Anton Vincent, president of Mars Wrigley North America. “Our Mars Wrigley team pivoted quickly to save the traditions and celebrations of Halloween.”
NCA is also helping consumers take the guesswork out of Halloween this year with Halloween Central, which features creative and safe celebration ideas.
The Association sought advice and counsel from public health and nutrition professionals when developing the site’s safety tips and guidelines, which are intended to empower people to be safe this Halloween while still having a bit of fun during the month of October.
In conjunction with the companies, brands and other industry thought leaders, NCA is leading a comprehensive activation for the Halloween season that has already achieved measurable success. The goal of the campaign is to promote an environment of permissibility related to celebrations and traditions that puts chocolate and candy front and center. By aggressively putting facts first in its communications, NCA reports it is reassuring doubters that Halloween is happening and communicating the creative and fun opportunities that this Halloween in particular presents for consumers.
“Halloween is arguably the most fun day of the year. This is a holiday where you give out candy, free candy, to everyone. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Rubin tells Candy & Snack TODAY. “Everyone can use a little candy and a smile on October 31. This year more than ever.”