Reality bites? US Halloween candy sales unspooked by inflation

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

US consumers will still have plenty of candy treats on hand this Halloween. Pic: Getty Images
US consumers will still have plenty of candy treats on hand this Halloween. Pic: Getty Images

Related tags Halloween Chocolate Candy Nca

Scary monsters (and super creeps) with false teeth may not be the only ones to bite this Halloween as inflation is also hitting households across the United States, forcing many families to keep tight control of the purse strings.

Chocolate and candy play an important role in the nation’s seasonal celebrations, and for the confectionery industry Halloween is one of the most important and traditionally most lucrative events for manufacturers.

In an op-ed to the media, John Downs president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), writes: “Halloween is often referred to as our industry’s Super Bowl. And now that the Halloween season is in full swing, consumers are excited to celebrate, with 93% saying they will share chocolate and candy with friends and family to commemorate the season. Whether their address is on Main Street or Pennsylvania Avenue, Americans are preparing their decorations, costumes and treats ahead of Halloween night​.

But according to data from NIQ, a leading consumer intelligence company, trick-or-treaters may have lighter bags this year with marshmallows and candy-coated confections looking like best buys for the candy bowl.

Candy prices have been increasing steadily over the past few years, with the average unit price in the super category up almost 14% (for the 52-week period ending September 23). 

The chocolate category had a higher average unit price than the confection category ($3.34 vs $2.48), while marshmallows and candy-coated confections had the lowest average unit pricing ($1.52 and $1.70), according to NIQ.

Moreover, NIQ data found that ‘candy is still king’. In September 2023, the candy super-category (candy, gum, and mints) made up 7% of overall dollar sales from the dry grocery department (centre of store) and almost 9% of its unit sales. For the 52-week period ending September 2023, it was worth $26 billion (+10.7% from the previous 52-week period), with 8.8 billion in unit sales (-2.8%).

According to NIQ data, for the 12-month period ending September 2023, October was not the most popular month for candy. ‘December 2022 had the highest amount of unit sales from the candy super category, with October 2022 falling in 6th place. Focusing on the month of October over the past few years, dollar sales have been steadily increasing while unit sales have been in flux and decreased from October 2021 to October 2022.

Get your fright on!

On the upside, Downs writes that consumer enthusiasm has steadily extended the Halloween season over time, with the nation’s chocolate and candy makers working with retailers to enhance the exciting build-up far before 31 October.

In his opinion piece, he makes the point that confectionery items remain an affordable luxury despite persistent inflation and continued supply chain disruptions impacting kitchen table budgets from coast to coast. “While Americans begin their celebrations earlier and earlier each year, confectionery manufacturers work year-round to make sure shelves are stocked with seasonal treats that make for a memorable Halloween for families​.”

'The power of sweet'

He reminds consumers and politicians that for an industry that generates $42 billion every year, the Halloween season is vital to the nation’s ability to support local economies, providing more than 58,000 confectionery manufacturing jobs and an additional 635,000 jobs in transportation, agriculture, retail, and more. “The “Power of Sweet” can be felt in all corners of the country, as our member companies operate in all 50 states.”

The confectionery industry is providing more transparency, choice and portion guidance options for consumers who are looking to celebrate the big and small moments, he writes.

If you are celebrating the Halloween season this year or are among the 60% of parents who sneak Halloween candy from their children, know that we as an industry are working hard to deliver innovative new products right alongside beloved Halloween classics​.” 

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