US Halloween confectionery sales outshone expectations in 2013 driven by strong promotions from retailers and a noteworthy boost in the final week, according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA).
Larry Wilson, vice president of customer relations at the NCA, said at a Sweet Insights webinar last week: “Halloween was a very happy Halloween.”
Halloween 2013 US confectionery sales grew 3.8% on last year to $4bn. The NCA had previously predicted a 1% rise for the nation’s largest holiday period for confections.
Chocolate accounted for 55% of sales and grew 5.2% on last year, while non-chocolate candy - 33% of all Halloween confectionery sales - grew 4.9%. However, ‘problem child’ gum - 12% of Halloween confection sales - fell 4.4%.
Showdown in the final week
Sales grew at a similar pace to last year, but peaked above 2012 for the week-ending 27 October.
Retailers finished the season very strongly and made significant gains in the final week driven by merchandizing.
Wilson said that manufacturers should encourage retailers to support the season. “Those that did made a significant difference.”
What do consumers want?
“Brand is the number one driver of what shoppers end up buying in the store followed by price, sales promotions and preferences of others in the household,” he continued, citing data from a recent NCA survey.
“Our survey found that a variety of inventory is key to success.”
In the survey, chocolate was rated as the nation’s favorite Halloween treat, but 65% of those surveyed said they purchased a mix of chocolate and non-chocolate candy.
“The need for new items and generating that excitement is particularly significant for the Halloween period,” added Wilson.
43% of those surveyed agreed that seeing new products for Halloween made the season more interesting. In 2013, retailers also took on an average of nine new seasonal Halloween chocolate items.
The NCA’s survey found that over half of shoppers preferred to see products in seasonal packaging and colors.
“That means that the seasonal offering, despite the challenges that they sometime offer with logistics and supply chain, really matter. They engage shoppers, they make it interesting, they make it fun and shoppers are looking for it,” said Wilson.
On the shelves early
He recommended confectioners to get Halloween candy on the shelves early as consumers often buy early, eat the products and come back for more later.
“Get it out there early to capture that early purchase, not only for the Halloween trick or treating but for the pre parties, but also that you ensure that you finish the season because they tend to come back.”
In 2013, both the grocery and drug channel increased Halloween confectionery sales in the US.
Wilson added: “We’re seeing more online and even promotions online…We are going to see more and more people purchasing online.”
In the NCA’s survey, 21% said that they purchased seasonal candy online routinely with 30-44 year olds most likely to buy online.
“Leverage the digital space,” said Wilson. “Social media is becoming more and more important.”
Message for 2014
In 2014, Halloween will fall on a Friday. “That’s big for Halloween. That means not only trick-or-treating and maybe later trick-or-treating; it also means a lot of parties.”
Wilson said that getting products out early would be key to enabling consumers to stock up for parties.