Although candy sales in some geographic areas were hampered last Halloween by the events of Sept. 11, supermarket retailers and candy experts are predicting a rebound this year for both the traditional favorites and some new items.
"Candy sales for Halloween have been increasing each year," said Mike Whitehead, grocery merchandiser/trainer for Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass. "Although last year's events caused some areas to be somewhat flat in sales, we were still happy with the overall results of the Halloween program. Nine-eleven certainly had an impact on Halloween sales, but I anticipate that this year will bounce back barring any further events or warnings."
Statistics from market research firm ACNielsen, Schaumburg, Ill., bear out that assessment of the candy sales situation.
Overall candy sales in supermarkets were up 3% for the four weeks ended Nov. 6, 1999, for a total of $422 million, compared to a similar four-week period the year before. For the same four weeks in 2000, sales were up 3.7% for a total of $438 million. However, a slight decline of 0.5% in 2001 was recorded with a total sales of $436 million.
For the popular Halloween candies, non-chocolate miniatures posted sales of slightly more than $20 million for the four weeks in October for both 1999 and 2000, and then recorded a decline of 7% to $18.9 million last year for those same four weeks. Sales of chocolate miniatures grew from almost $168 million for the four weeks in October 1999, to $177 million in 2000, a 5.6% increase, and then experienced a 1.6% decline to $174 million last year, according to ACNielsen.
Another Halloween favorite, lollipops, increased sales by a whopping 16% to almost $14 million in October 1999, compared to the previous year. The strong sales continued in 2000, with a 6.9% increase to $14.88 million. Sales leveled off for October 2001, at $14.94 million, a modest 0.4% increase.
The continued popularity of chocolate miniatures is attributed by many retailers to the fact that adults buy the candy distributed at Halloween, so they buy what they like, as well as what is made convenient by individual wrapping.
"Bags of Snickers and Milky Way and similar candy bars sell best -- they always have," said Leo Bosma, assistant manager of County Market in Worthington, Minn. "The eyeballs and the candies connected to movies do not do as well because it is adults buying the candy and they like the traditional ones best."
Kevin Copper, chain manager for Sterk's Super Foods, Hammond, Ind., agreed.
"The reason character-related items do not do as well as you might think is because this candy is being bought by adults. If there are leftovers, they do not want it to be kids' candy. They want something they like," Copper said.
Halloween candies in Sterk's are placed on the "wall of values" at the front of the store, but the amount of space that can be devoted varies with the size of the store, which can range from 15,000 square feet to 60,000 square feet for the four stores in Indiana and four in Illinois.
"We tie candy sales to things such as plastic bags for leaves that have pumpkins on the side, batteries and flashlights for trick or treating, and cups, plates and napkins for parties," Copper added. "Trick or treating is not as big as it once was, but now there are a lot of parties for both children and adults."
At County Market, the amount of space and the placement of seasonal candies have changed in the past two years as the store has been remodeled.
"We are still searching for exactly the right spot," Bosma said. "We put seasonal candy on the 'wall of values' first, but that did not work well. Then we put a gondola up front. Now we have stolen space from produce for a specialized display. We have summer products there now, and when we take that down we will put in Halloween candy. We cross merchandise that with costumes."
The costumes and other merchandise are aimed at adults as well as children, according to the National Confectioners Association and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, both based in Vienna, Va.
"There is no question that in the past 10 years, Halloween has become a much more broadly celebrated holiday," said Larry Graham, president of the associations. "And whether it's adults or kids celebrating, candy is a big part of the festivities. Halloween is the confectionery industry's biggest candy holiday in terms of sales."
Although traditional candies still sell best, some new additions are being made to the lines aimed strictly at children, according to the associations. Teenee Beanee Gourmet Jelly Beans by Just Born, Bethlehem, Pa., have added a "Delicious Destinations" line that includes a wide range of new flavors such as Chesapeake cherry, blueberry cobbler and Caribbean punch.
Fun Gum Sugar Lips by the American Candy Co., Selma, Ala., are among the newest batch of novelty candies, as are Mini Cow Pies by Baraboo Cow Pies, Baraboo, Wis., bite-sized, milk chocolate-covered caramels and pecans. Soft and Chewy Stinky Feet by Necco, Cambridge, Mass., come in sour apple and zesty cinnamon flavors, and fruit-flavored Popart Hologram Lollipops have been created by LightVision Confections, Cincinnati. These and other new additions also will be seen on supermarket shelves with the goal of grabbing kids' attention, according to the candy association, which currently lists more than 50 newcomers to the market.
All treats, new and traditional, will be part of trick or treating, which has become an important family activity, particularly in the growing Hispanic communities in the United States, where all family activities are valued, said Randy Delgado, general manager of sales in Southern California for Unified Western Grocers, Commerce, Calif.
Hispanics are an important part of the customer base in the 15 Vallarta stores in the San Fernando area.
"We use thematic displays for Halloween but the amount of space varies by store," said Ray Jones, director of purchasing. "We have walk-around displays for the holidays, including Halloween, in the lobby areas and we do special promotions with advertising and price specials. Prewrapped standard candies do the best."
Whitehead, from Big Y, agreed. "Chocolate continues to be the mainstay for Halloween. The biggest brands tend to be Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kat, Snickers, Milky Way and 3-Musketeers. However, items tied to kids' programming, such as Sponge Bob and Rugrats, are becoming more popular. There is a noticeable increase in the items presented that tie in with Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network. Hershey also introduced a Fast Break 10-pack for last Halloween. Also, a new Starburst Fruit Chew was well-received."
At Big Y, the seasonal candies are placed on a "cutout" at the front of the candy aisle. "Chips and soda anchor this aisle, which brings the traffic into our seasonal area," Whitehead added.
In addition, soda and chips are tied into candy sales for Halloween parties, as well as caramels and apples. In order to compete with the discount and warehouse stores, Big Y offers special pricing, he added.
"To compete with the mass merchants and other supermarkets in the area, we have tried to offer different price points to get the customer into the store to buy candy while they are shopping. For instance, last year we ran a 3 for $5 on Masterfoods Fun Size. This was the first time that kind of retail had been offered in our area."
Party items are also a good tie-in for Forest Hills Foods in Grand Rapids, Mich., said Jeff VandenBerge, president.
"Items such as cupcakes are used in the Center Store aisles as a tie-in with Halloween candy for parties," he said, "as well as adult party products such as frozen pizza, and masks, bags and decorations. Halloween also is marketed with the fall merchandise, such as doughnuts and cider."
For Forest Hills Foods, 16 feet of space is devoted to Halloween candy in a separate display next to the regular candy.
"We have summer items in that space, then back to school, and then we will put Halloween candy there," VandenBerge said.
In-store costume parties and contests are used by Brookshire Grocery Co., based in Tyler, Texas, said Jim Gee, company spokesman, as well as contests for the best displays among the chain's 133 stores in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Halloween candy is cross merchandised with apples and caramels, paper plates and cups for parties, bakery items and nonfood items such as costumes and Halloween make-up, he said.
"Individually wrapped candies are popular, but novelties and licensed characters are gaining in popularity. The newest novelty item for this season is Spider-man," he said. "The slowing economy hurt candy sales somewhat and there has been a decline in trick or treating, but parties and school and church group activities have made up for it."