Five Questions with John Downs: Halloween 2020

Five Questions with John Downs: Halloween 2020

There are a few cultural moments of widespread celebration ahead of us as we look at the remainder of 2020, including Halloween. Given the central role that chocolate and candy play in the month of October, who better than NCA President & CEO John Downs to address the questions about Halloween that are top of mind for many people? We all know that this year will look a little different, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit out on the fun of the Halloween season.

Q: Is Halloween 2020 canceled?

John: Let me say it once and for all – Halloween 2020 is on! Every community across the country is going to have a different approach to celebrating the Halloween season. But importantly nearly two-thirds of adults (63%) agree that people will find creative and safe ways to enjoy Halloween this year. For some, that may mean a socially distanced celebration or trick-or-treating with proper precautions. For others, that may be a celebration at home, like a virtual costume party or a marathon of favorite Halloween movies. No matter how families decide to celebrate, it’s important that they follow the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and their individual state and local health authorities. The seasonal celebrations will change this year, but there will still be plenty of Halloween fun – and Halloween treats – to be had.

Q: What can families do if they can’t safely trick-or-treat as normal?

John: For those opting out of traditional trick-or-treating, know that the Halloween season can be celebrated throughout the entire month of October! There are plenty of creative ways to enjoy Halloween at home. Try trick-or-treating door to door inside the house or hosting a virtual mask decorating competition. We put together some tips like these to help inspire creative approaches to a fun and safe Halloween season at

This Halloween is also a great time to drive home lessons on balance and treating while families enjoy their favorite treats in the home. Most parents celebrating Halloween plan to use opportunities like this to have these discussions with their children.

For those participating, this year’s trick-or-treating likely will not be business as usual, and I expect we’ll see many more masks than on past Halloween nights! If families decide to trick-or-treat, we strongly encourage following guidance from public health authorities and being mindful of your neighbors’ preferences as well.

Q: Should people be concerned about candy packaging transmitting COVID-19?

John: The FDA and CDC affirm that food is safe to eat and say that handling food packaging does not spread COVID-19. And we’ve all heard the experts tell us that it’s always important to wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before eating.

However, if you are still looking for another option this Halloween, consider buying your Halloween candy early directly from the store or online. That way you can have your family candy stash at home, limiting your interactions with others. Plus, four in five parents say they sneak candy from their children’s trick-or-treating stash and two-thirds eat some of the candy they buy for trick-or-treaters before they even come to their door – so why not just cut out the middlemen and get your favorite chocolate and candy straight from the source? It never hurts to grab a few treats to share with your family and treat yourself during the Halloween season!

Q: If this is our “new normal,” what will this mean for celebrating the winter holidays and other candy moments?

John: This is a big question for all of us in the confectionery industry, in our country and around the world. If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it is that it is difficult to predict what will happen months from now. I am optimistic that the confectionery industry will continue to adapt and that American families will continue to rally around their favorite chocolate and candy as sources of togetherness and emotional well-being. In the meantime, we’ll keep encouraging people to find new creative, fun and safe ways to celebrate our favorite holidays.

Q: Given that everything else has been canceled, why shouldn’t we just cancel Halloween 2020 and wait for next year?

John: I know 2020 has been a difficult year as many of our families, friends and neighbors are facing economic hardship and feeling the impact of prolonged social distancing.

Halloween has always been about people, traditions and celebrations – and we in the candy industry are proud to have played an important part in the Halloween season for generations. Treats like chocolate and candy have kept us connected this year, even when we couldn’t be together. When asked, parents overwhelmingly said their favorite way to enjoy Halloween treats is with their families, demonstrating how candy can make family time even sweeter and bring families closer together.

Halloween may look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate in a new and creative way. I can’t wait to see the creative ways our member companies and candy lovers across the country make the Halloween season a success.