By Grace Donnelly
October 31, 2018

Halloween is the second largest holiday in the U.S., and this year Americans will spend about one-third more on sweet and spooky purchases than they did three years ago.

Total spending for the holiday in the U.S. is expected to reach about $9 billion in 2018, according to the National Retail Federation. More than 175 million Americans will partake in Halloween activities, spending an average of $86.79 on festivities—up from $86.13 last year.

For Chicago-based candy maker Mars Wrigley, the sixth largest privately held company in the U.S., Halloween is the main event.

“We refer to it as our Super Bowl,” said Vic Mehren, COO of Mars Wrigley Confectionery. “What it’s like to work at a candy company this time of year is just amazing.”

He attributes the holiday’s growth to the stretching of the Halloween season—the holiday falls on Wednesday this year—and an uptick in celebrations and costume parties, especially among adults.

Americans will spend some $2.6 billion on candy this year, with 95% of all observers purchasing sweets that total about 600 million pounds of sugary treats.

According to sales data gathered by CandyStore.com, Mars products account for four of the top five highest-selling Halloween items in the U.S. from 2007 to 2017: Skittles (No.1), M&Ms (No. 2), Snickers (No. 3), and Starburst (No. 5.). Hershey’s Reese’s Cups came in at No. 4.

Even as consumer preferences around sugary foods have rapidly changed, Mehren says that America’s favorite candies have remained relatively constant.

“The reality is many of the great products and brands that have been consumed years ago are the ones consumers are choosing today,” Mehren said “In fact we have five of the top chocolate brands today and it was a similar lineup years ago. Part of the reason is because the nostalgia of Halloween—that people end up buying things they recall from their trick-or-treating and previous Halloween experiences.”

The fastest growing product in the confectionary sector is variety packs, which saw 5% growth as a segment over the last year. Mars and Wrigley variety packs, stacked with many trick-or-treaters’ favorite brands, are the number one sellers with more than four times the growth rate of the segment.

Mehren said the company is also experimenting with new flavors, like the ubiquitous pumpkin spice, and introducing different product packaging, like party bowls, in order to capture “seasonal moments,” as Mars Wrigley thinks of them.

Now that Halloween is here, it’s time to begin planning for next year, he said, with factories ramping up production each spring.

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