Pumpkin gum and Butterfinger skulls: Halloween candy sales set to hit record high in 2016

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Seasonal NPD: The National Confectionery Association (NCA) projects record Halloween candy sales of $2.7bn.
Seasonal NPD: The National Confectionery Association (NCA) projects record Halloween candy sales of $2.7bn.

Related tags Halloween Chocolate

Halloween candy sales in the US may reach record levels despite an expected drop in trick-or-treating as more Americans shop for candy online and celebrate over the weekend.

Wrigley’s Pumpkin Spice gum, Hershey’s Caramel Apple Filled Milk Chocolates and Nestlé's Butterfinger Molded Skull cups are among new product developments for the season.

Halloween Origins

  • Halloween pre-dates Christianity and has its roots with Celtic groups who believed the door between the world of the dead and the living opened on 31 October.
  • The Celts left food and drink out to sustain the spirits and used disguises to escape harm while moving from house to house enjoying the food and drink.
  • The Celts carved turnips to represent faces, which later became pumpkins due to their abundance in the US.
  • All Saints' Day (1 Nov) was sometimes known as All Hallows' Day, and the night before, All Hallows' Eve, or Hallowe'en, which we today call Halloween.
  • Halloween came to America from settlers and immigrants. The season was initially celebrated as an autumn harvest festival.
  • Trick-or-treating is chiefly a US custom that was popularized in the 1950s by the Baby Boomer generation.

A record year?

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) predicts Americans will spend around $2.7bn on Halloween Candy this year, a 2.3% rise on last year.

This would make 2016 a record-year for Halloween candy spending. The trade body will discover retail sales for the season in early December.

“Halloween falls on a Monday this year so we expect to see family and community celebrations over the weekend, with most neighborhoods holding trick-or-treat festivities on Monday evening,”​ Susan Whiteside, vice president of public relations at the NCA, told ConfectioneryNews.

The NCA found 77% of respondents were likely to purchase candy this Halloween, according to its survey of 1,391 individuals, conducted this month.

It found 60% of respondents like to purchase candy in Halloween packaging.

Chocolate was the top pick among American adults (68%), ahead of second placed candy corn (10%), the survey found.

Consumer spend up

According to a separate consumer survey​ by the National Retail Federation, overall Halloween spending is expected to reach a record $8.4bn this year, 

US consumers are projected to spend $82.93 per capita, 12% more than last year, to take part in festivities, found the survey, which surveyed 6,791 Americans from September 6 to 13.

Around $2.4bn is expected to be spent on candy, the second biggest outlay behind Halloween costumes.

Ninety-four per cent of those surveyed said they planned to purchase candy for Halloween, while 71% said they intended to hand out candy.

However, there was a 1.1% drop in survey respondents that plan to hand out candy compared to last year and a 1.9% decline in those that plan to take their children trick-or-treating.

Source: NRF

Discount stores and online channels

The majority (44%) said they planned to start Halloween shopping from the first two weeks of October.

Most said they would shop in discount stores (47%) for their Halloween purchases, while 26% will visit grocery stores/supermarkets and there was a 26.1% increase in those that plan to shop online compared to last year as 22% said they would purchase items on the internet.

Second largest season

Total US holiday candy sales are worth an estimated $18.96bn and account for 77% of overall confectionery sales in the country, according to market analysts IRI.

Halloween is the second largest season for US candy behind Christmas and generates around $4.2bn in sales, says IRI.

M&M's Boo-tterscotch and Skittles Cauldron

mars and wrigley halloween
Source: Mars

Mars is the second biggest player in US Halloween candy by retail value sales. It made up 38% of category sales during the season last year and had five brands in the top 10 bestsellers.

For Halloween 2016, it has launched butterscotch flavor ‘M&M's Boo-tterscotch’ exclusively at Target stores across the US for $3.19 per eight-ounce bag. 

The company’s chocolate division has also revamped its packaging for Snickers Harvest Minis to add seasonal colors and a festival fall message.

Other seasonal chocolate items include M&M’s Milk Chocolate Crispy S’mores Candies, Dove Dark Chocolate Jack-O-Lanterns and M&M’s Milk Chocolate Crispy Harvest Candies.

The firm’s Wrigley division – to be combined with the chocolate business from next year - has launched Skittles Cauldron in single packs and fun-size bags as well as Extra Pumpkin Spice Sugar-free gum.

The seasonal Wrigley’s Extra gum comes in a 15-stick envelope pack for $2.69.

Hershey Halloween launches

US market leader Hershey has also launched a string of new products for Halloween 2016. These include:

reeses ghosts

Reese’s White Peanut Butter Ghosts Snack Size – ​Ghost-shaped candies coated with white crème with a classic peanut butter filling in a 10.2-oz pack for $3.25.


Jolly Rancher Lollipops Spooky Shapes:​  Lollipop range in Pink Lemonade, Green Apple, Watermelon and Cherry in Halloween shapes - $3 for a 9.1-oz.pack.


Hershey’s Caramel Apple Filled Milk Chocolates:​ Caramel-filled Hershey’s chocolate in a foil wrapped apple-shaped 10-oz pack for $4.

hershey cookies skull small

Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Crème Skulls:​ Cookies ‘n’ crème chocolates wrapped in skull-themed foils, in 10-oz packs for $4.00.

The company has also brought back products from previous years such as Hershey’s Candy Corn Halloween Bar, Cadbury Screme Eggs and Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin.

Nestlé Butterfinger Skulls

Nestlé USA hopes to compete through Halloween and Fall NPD under its Butterfinger brand.

Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups Molded Skull has been launched in snackable singles for $0.99 and shareable two-packs for $1.99.


The company has also debuted limited edition Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cup Minis (10.5oz pack for $3.99), a poppable confection in festive orange and gold foil in a share bag.

Nestlé has partnered with the host of Recipe Rehab Evette Rios, who has created recipes featuring Butterfinger products, which are featured on Butterfinger’s Pinterest page.

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