Seasonal innovation

How to get ready for halloween 2024

By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/Kinzie+Riehm
Image: Getty/Kinzie+Riehm

Related tags Halloween Candy Chocolate Confectionery Marketing Npd Seasonal Mars

As the majors finalise their campaigns for candy’s ‘biggest moment’ how can smaller confectioners turn spooky season into sales?

As consumers shop for summer-inspired sweets, the next big confectionery season, manufacturers should already be focussed on halloween. New product launches, formulation updates and engaging marketing campaigns are all opportunities for brands to connect and engage with halloween-loving shoppers.

Seasonal buying is big business in sweets​, making up 64% of total chocolate and candy sales in the US, The National Confectionery Association reported in 2023. Halloween is the second biggest holiday after Christmas for confectionery purchases, generating $5 billion.

To look at the big trends that’ll influence Halloween 2024 confectionery launches, Mars has released its first Mars Tricks, Treats and Trends report​, a sign of just how big the Halloween holiday has become for brands and manufacturers. The report finds that 85% of those planning to celebrate Halloween either plan to go bigger or retain similar plans compared to last year. This number is even higher among Gen Z and Millennials at 90%.

“Our Halloween Headquarters in Topeka, KS is producing the most halloween candy it ever has – and you can see Mars Wrigley products on shelves as early as July,” says Tim LeBel, Chief Halloween Officer and President of Sales at Mars Wrigley North America.

Halloween goes global as sales ramp up

Although originating in Europe, the US has always topped the leaderboard as the biggest celebrator of halloween. In 2023, The National Retail Federation reported​ US shoppers would spend an all-time high of $12.2 billion (€11.4 bn) during the holiday season, up from $10.6 billion (€9.9 bn) in 2022.

The UK, another leading global market for halloween sales, has seen consumers approximately quadruple their seasonal spending over the past decade. In 2023, this was anticipated to reach more than £1 billion (€846 million), a considerable leap from previous years, Statista reports​.

While Canada makes up the top three countries celebrating Halloween, 2023 saw shoppers tightening their belts and changing their halloween plans amid the cost-of-living crisis – an interesting variation from the US and the UK.

While the US, the UK and Canada continue to make up the top three countries celebrating Halloween, the spooky season is growing in popularity in numerous countries around the world.

The World Population Review reports​ that Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, Italy and Switzerland are among these countries, indicating there’s an even bigger potential seasonal opportunity for sweet brands.

Top trends for halloween 2024

“Candy is the top contributor to a positive halloween experience,” says LeBel, and a stunning 93% of US consumers buy halloween candy to meet this need, according to the survey. Enthusiasm for halloween drives consumers to plan for the season earlier, giving brands more opportunities to engage with sweet shoppers.

Many brands are responding to this demand with spooky season-inspired confectionery and exploring flavours, formats, and marketing campaigns that stand out on Halloween-themed shelves. Here's how.

1. Planning for Halloween earlier then ever

As we move into July and summer, Mars is a little past the halfway point leading to Halloween. Data from the Mars Tricks, Treats, and Trends report​ shows that some consumers are already planning.

Younger generations are “changing the game,” Mars says in its report. gen Z celebrates halloween earlier. More than a third (36%) of gen Z US shoppers who plan to celebrate the season get ready for the holiday more than a month in advance, while some gen Zers are preparing for Halloween already.

Various Halloween-inspired products are already on the digital shelves. Kidskan’s Halloween box, which comes in bubblegum, popping candy, and mystery cotton candy flavours, won first prize in the ECRM Kids Choice Awards Best Novelty product category in 2024. Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats is also getting in on the action, blurring the lines between bakery and confectionery snacks with its Halloween Mini Squares.

2. Sweets that scream halloween

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Halloween-specific confectionery relating to flavour, shape, and packaging are popular among 44% of candy shoppers. Consumers prefer seasonal-inspired flavours that combine halloween with autumn favourites.

Mars Wrigley is adding M&M’s Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Pie with pumpkin spice flavours to its halloween range this year. “We’re bringing back hallmark fan favourites and introducing new, innovative seasonal treats like M&M’S Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Pie and even more variety bag offerings to meet evolving consumer needs,” says LeBel.

Vidal Vidal’s “ghoulishly gummi” Monster Jelly comes in six strawberry-flavoured shapes, including a bat, skull, Frankenstein head, monster claw, ghoul, and monster head. Brach’s Candy Corn, Pumpkins, and Mellowcreme Autumn Mix are among the sweet producer’s halloween products.

3. Flavours and formats

Chocolate is the reigning halloween flavour favourite among candy purchasers, with 88% of those asked choosing chocolate-based candies as their number one candy type at halloween.

Gummies are a continued rising trend and a favourite among younger generations. Over half (56%) of millennials say gummies are their candy of choice, while this rises to 60% for gen Z shoppers. Gummies, fruity flavours and sour sweets are more popular among younger generations.

Sour, a growing trend, is a favourite during the spooky season. Theatre Box has created its shareable Sour Box of Boogers, which comes in a mix of sweet and sour flavours. Warheads Gummy Body Parts are another sour and tangy treat targeting Halloween buyers.

Gen Zers want more from the holiday season, celebrating across various activities, candy flavours and purchase channels. Gen X shoppers, on the other hand, are more likely to purchase packs with a single brand compared to younger generations the study found.

4. Heading online for treats

The differences between younger and older halloween sweet shoppers don’t stop there either. While both buy most of their candy in-store, millennials and Gen Z are more likely to purchase candy online than gen X and boomer demographics.

More than half of the Millennials (57%) and Gen Z (55%) surveyed plan on doing some of their Halloween shopping online. Brands can create digital-first marketing strategies that appeal to younger shoppers to jump on this demand.

In 2023, ‘boo baskets’ were a big trend on TikTok, generating 12,000 relevant videos and 229 million views in October alone. The halloween-themed baskets given to friends and family were particularly popular with 18-24-year-olds, who made up 71% of #boobasket viewers on TikTok. Most of the remaining boobasket lovers (21%) were 25-34-year-olds, with many making them for their children.

Some big-name brands have got their halloween marketing campaigns down to a fine art. Skittles are among the multinational sweet brands known for their creative marketing campaigns.

In 2019, the taste the rainbow brand went more spooky than sunny in tone with its new Rotten Zombie Flavour Roulette as a limited-edition product. With the hashtag #DareTheRainbow, the Blood Red Berry and Mummified Melon product flavours returned in 2020 and received 1.4 million impressions across the brand’s social media channels.

Dunkin’ Donuts stands out in the marketing stakes too. The brand’s “Click Your Treat” campaign combined a spooky theme with a discounted deal, helping to grow its loyal fan base. 

5. Fun sizes and variety packs

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More than half of consumers (55%) are interested in buying a variety of bags with both fruity and chocolate products. For this year’s halloween, Mars Wrigley is launching a variety of bags that mix its fruity and chocolate products to respond to this trend. Variety bags mix Mars brands like Twix, Snickers, Life Savers and Skittles gummies.

Fun-size candies remain popular, with 75% of candy buyers wanting to buy these for halloween, ideal for trick-and-treating and parties. Minis are the most popular candy size among millennials, with 56% of this demographic going for small confectionery.

M&M’s launched its glow in the dark trick or treat fun-size packs. Snickers launched its Bite-Sized halloween treats alongside a TV ad that puts fun and engaging storytelling at the core of its seasonal launch.

6. Consumers want to treat themselves too

Over three-quarters (76%) of shoppers who plan to celebrate halloween buy candy to give out during trick-or-treating trips or in bowls for hosting parties. However, consumers are not only buying candies for others to give out during trick-or-treating trips or host parties. Over half (53%) of sweet shoppers buy these to treat themselves.

Nerds teamed up with Dungeons & Dragons to release candy-themed characters and Fruit-tella partnered with Amazon’s Alexa to create their Halloween Hotel campaign, appealing to these gift-giving and self-treating audiences. Collabs like these are highly engaging, enabling brands to piggyback off each other’s popularity.

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The big candy celebration

For multinational companies, a typical timeline of activities starts far in advance of the day itself. Mars plans two years ahead, for example. Its teams begin working with research and development and key retailers on trends, pack designs, innovations and flavours. They then bring their ideas to retailers and start planning seasonal details.

Halloween is a huge opportunity for confectionery brands to launch or promote their products. “At Mars, we celebrate halloween every day—it’s candy’s biggest moment,” LeBel says.

Mars Wrigley has developed its Twix Ghoulish Green and Snickers Ghoulish Green products for the scary holiday season. New launches, existing popular halloween products, and various packaging formats are among Mars’ strategies for this year’s season.

For smaller manufacturers and brands that have yet to fine-tune their October 31 confectionery strategies, there’s still time to prepare for halloween. In the run-up to the one-day event, speaking with retailers can provide valuable insights. Brands can understand their needs, learning how shoppers interact and select products. This can then steer their product development and marketing campaigns.

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