It could be a scary Halloween for confectioners

New insights show that there will not only be fewer trick-or-treaters this year, but also fewer homes giving out candy.

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The pandemic could make Halloween particularly frightening this year, especially for confectioners and retailers, if new Field Agent data is any indication.

The market research firm polled 1887 Canadians, including 876 parents of children under the age of 18, 61% of whom say their kids are going trick or treating this year, compared with 83% in 2019.

That impact will hit brands and retailers, as not only will there be fewer ghouls and goblins roaming the streets, but thanks to pandemic concerns, fewer households say they will even be inviting trick or treaters to their door: only 53% plan to give out Halloween candy and chocolates, versus 63% last year. That’s expected to drive average household spend on Halloween from $51.25 last year to $44.27.

Field Agent also says that it’s not just tasty treats that will be affected: decoration and costume spending will be down 13% and 11%, respectively.

For those that are planning to buy treats, purchase intent has remained relatively consistent across categories compared to last year, with chocolate remaining the top choice (76% of households), followed by candy (52%) and chips (40%). “Better for you” treats, beverages, non-food items and homemade treats remain in the single digits.

One thing that has gone up slightly is the intent to purchase Halloween candy but not give it away: 19% report they will keep treats to themselves, compared with 11% in 2019.

Among the respondents who will be trick-or-treating, more parents seem to be implementing additional precautions, as opposed to limiting or shortening their outings. Most parents (70%) will be using hand sanitizer, 58% will have their families wear face masks, 47% will be wearing gloves and 47% will be “supervising their kids more closely.” By comparison, 34% say they will be going to fewer houses than last year, 29% will be staying closer to home and 20% say their trips will be shorter.

Top retailers for treat purchases this year include Walmart (28%), Costco (17%) and Real Canadian Superstore (15%).

As a hedge against a possible Halloween downturn, some confectionery brands are trying to make trick-or-treating the latest thing to be brought into the virtual realm as a result of the pandemic. Category leader Mars Wrigley will be launching an app called “Treat Town,” which allows for “virtual trick-or-treating” and a number of other Halloween-themed activities throughout the month of October, where a variety of pack sizes and season offerings will be spotlighted. Users will collect credits by using the app, which can be redeemed for candy at U.S. retailers.

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