Americans load up on candy, trick or treat – or not

Sep 24, 2020, 6:15 AM
Halloween candy and decorations are displayed at a store, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Freeport, M...
Halloween candy and decorations are displayed at a store, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Freeport, Maine. U.S. sales of In this year of the pandemic, with trick-or-treating still an uncertainty, Halloween candy were up 13% over last year in the month ending Sept. 6, according to data from market research firm IRI and the National Confectioners Association. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Americans may not know if trick or treating will happen this year because of the pandemic, but they’re buying a lot of Halloween candy while they wait to find out.

U.S. sales of Halloween candy were up 13% over last year in the month ending Sept. 6, according to data from market research firm IRI and the National Confectioners Association. That’s a bigger jump than the usual single-digit increases. Sales of Halloween chocolate alone are up 25%.

Earlier Halloween displays at some chains, like dollar stores, Meijer and ShopRite, likely helped boost sales. But Americans may also be in a mood to celebrate after months of pandemic anxiety.

Cassandra Ambrosius, who lives in central Wisconsin, was surprised to see bags of Halloween candy at the grocery in early September; her husband snapped one up. She expects to buy more bags as Halloween gets closer, because she thinks people in her neighborhood will figure out how to trick or treat safely.

“I’m sure people are just excited for a little sense of normalcy,” Ambrosius said.

That enthusiasm is good news for candy companies, which rely on the 10-week Halloween period for nearly 14% of their annual $36 billion in U.S. sales. Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year for candy makers, followed closely by Christmas and Easter. Valentine’s Day is a distant fourth.

Ferrara Candy Co., which makes Brach’s Candy Corn, says it saw online demand three months earlier than usual. Some stores also asked Ferrara for earlier shipments.

But while early demand are strong, sales in late October could suffer if the coronavirus clamps down on trick or treat. Fifty-five percent of Mars Wrigley’s Halloween candy sales usually happen in the last two weeks of October, says Tim LeBel, the company’s chief Halloween officer and head of U.S. sales.

New York’s governor recently announced that he won’t ban trick or treating in the state. But some cities, like Springfield, Massachusetts, and Antigo, Wisconsin, have called it off. Big Halloween events at places like Disney World and Salem, Massachusetts aren’t happening.

Ben Reed, of Arlington, Texas, takes pride in giving out full-size candy bars for Halloween. He usually buys between 160 and 200 candy bars.

“This year I have no idea how many to purchase,” he said. “I do not want to disappoint the kids, but on the other hand, I do not want to be stuck with too many and add more COVID pounds to myself.”

Numerator, a market research firm, surveyed 2,000 consumers in early August and found that 52% planned to buy less candy this year than they usually do. Just 11% planned to buy more.

Candy companies have been making some changes to deal with all the uncertainty around Halloween. Hershey is selling fewer large Halloween-themed bags of candy and shifting more candy to smaller, everyday bags that can still be sold after the holiday, said Phil Stanley, Hershey’s global chief sales officer.

Mars is customizing bag sizes. A place like Los Angeles County, which is discouraging trick or treating, may get smaller bags, for example.

“We’re trying to cover all the bases because each market is going to celebrate a little bit differently,” LeBel said.

CVS Caremark says it’s reduced the number of large and giant bags of candy stores will receive. It’s also expanded its assortment of “instant consumable” sized candy and gum that parents can pick up to treat themselves. Target says it’s cut back its assortment of Halloween candy in anticipation of a reduction of trick or treating this year.

Still, online sales could give candy companies a boost as the pandemic changed shopping habits. Digital sales more than doubled at Easter, LeBel said, and that could happen again at Halloween.

Companies have also shifted their marketing in response to the pandemic. Mars is launching a Treat Town website that will let people trick or treat virtually and earn credits toward real candy. Hershey has a map showing COVID risk by county on its website.

Miranda Leon of Albany, Georgia, still plans to buy Halloween candy in mid-October and make treat bags for her three kids’ classrooms. There’s no official word on Halloween in her city, but she plans to take her kids trick or treating and hand out candy.

“So much has been taken from our kids this year — classes cut short, sports cancelled, summer camps cancelled,” she said. “I refuse to take away the joy of trick or treating from my kids.”


AP Business Writer Anne D’Innocenzio contributed from New York.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories


Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, in response to "macroeconomic cond...
MATT O'BRIEN, Associated Press

Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that had just notified employees of the layoffs, some of which begin immediately.
15 days ago
exxon mobil sign pictured...

Study: Exxon Mobil accurately predicted warming since 1970s

Exxon said its understanding of climate change evolved over the years and that critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.
21 days ago
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...
The Associated Press

Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours […]
23 days ago
President Joe Biden pictured...
ZEKE MILLER AP White House Correspondent

DOJ reviewing potentially classified docs at Biden center

Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered at the offices of the Penn Biden Center.
24 days ago
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: A poster advertising the launch of Prince Harry's memoir "Spare" is s...
Jill Lawless Associated Press

Prince Harry says explosive book is a bid to ‘own my story’

Prince Harry defended his decision to publish a memoir that lays bare rifts inside Britain’s royal family.
24 days ago
utah capitol, a new bill heading to lawmakers will affect the utah sex offender registry...
HANNAH SCHOENBAUM Associated Press/Report for America

States target transgender health care in first bills of 2023

After a record flow of anti-transgender legislation last year, Republican state lawmakers this year are zeroing in on questions of bodily autonomy.
26 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Americans load up on candy, trick or treat – or not