Halloween candy sales spike above 2020 and pre-pandemic levels

Dive Brief:

  • IRI data shared by the National Confectioners Association shows Halloween candy sales up 48% in the eight weeks ending Oct. 4, 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, and up 59.8% compared to 2019. Meanwhile, data from tech firm Numerator shows sales of seasonal candy up 29% in the second half of 2021 versus last year, and up 43% compared to 2019.
  • Part of this growth can be attributed to a 12-point increase in the number of people planning Halloween festivities compared to 2020, with 82% of Americans planning to celebrate the holiday, according to June 2021 survey data from 210 Analytics and NCA. This number is even higher for millennial parents at 93%.
  • The pandemic put a damper on Halloween festivities last year, but candy sales have continued to remain strong since many parents find the holiday unimaginable without candy, and consumers have turned to sweet treats during the pandemic. In 2021, 87% of shoppers said they intended to purchase the same amount or more Halloween candy this year, up 7 points from 2020, according to NCA.

Dive Insight:

Not only are more people buying Halloween candy this year, but the amount they are buying is increasing. Numerator found that household penetration of seasonal candy rose 4.5 points from 2020, with the number of overall trips made up 19% from a year ago, and 30% from two years ago.

Chocolate remains a popular category this year, with IRI data showing retail sales in the eight weeks ending Oct. 4, 2021, up more than 55% compared to last year, and up more than 70% over 2019. Nonchocolate sales were up nearly 27% compared to 2020. 

Although consumer interest in celebrating is higher compared to previous years, so is product availability. According to IRI figures, Halloween-specific candy items per store are up 26.9% compared to 2020.

While Hershey said it had “its biggest Halloween ever” in 2020, it began preparing early for a particularly sweet season in 2021, according to a blog post by Clark Boyer, senior brand manager for seasons. The candy and snack giant added more Hershey displays and stands in retail stores in August and September, and focused on e-commerce to target early season candy buyers, which the company said spend almost twice as much as those who shop expressly for trick-or-treating. In an echo of last year’s strategy, the company said it is altering its packages and price points to encourage sharing between friends and family. And it introduced a new assortment of its “Lovers” Halloween varietal packs, including Caramel Lovers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Lovers and Kit Kat Lovers. 

Mars Wrigley is also looking to push the envelope on sales, including the launch of a limited-edition surprise flavor Shriekers Skittles. To give a little extra boost this Halloween, the company is also hosting community-driven events in four North American cities where it has headquarters or head offices.

Despite the swelling demand for Halloween candy in 2021, manufacturers are also dealing with a troubled supply chain environment. The American Licorice Co, the manufacturer of Red Vine licorice and Sour Punch candies, had launched several new Halloween-themed treats for this year including Candy Corn Twists and Ghoulish Grape Ropes. However, it has already switched production to focus on the winter holidays. 

Higher ingredient costs have made it difficult for the company to meet demand as well as retain the price point that consumers expect. American Licorice President of Marketing Kristi Shafer told Inside Indiana Business that “we are paying double, triple quadruple just to get things, so we don’t run out of candy.” The company said it has already passed costs along to its customers once. It is also dealing with higher shipping costs and labor constraints.

For manufacturers, Halloween is the largest candy selling holiday on the calendar and represents about 13% of the category’s total estimated $36 billion in U.S. sales.

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