According to the National Confectioners Association, Americans spent a record $2.3 billion on Halloween candy in 2011. If you’re doing the math, that’s more than $7 for every man, woman and child in the United States. Those figures make Halloween the largest confectionery holiday of the year, followed by Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Marketers have good reason to celebrate this year, too. Total Halloween spending is expected to surpass $8 billion – a new record – with costumes leading the holiday shopping spree with $2.9 billion. Even though the price of sugar has risen more than 10 percent per year in each of the last five years (driving up the price of candy along with it), sales of sweets are still expected to be strong in 2012. Will we set a new record? Time will tell.
In the meantime, we’ve put together a list of the best and worst treats to find in your trick-or-treating bucket. Limiting ourselves to just five candies on each list was a difficult task. It meant leaving good candies like Butterfingers and Nerds off the “Best” list, but it also spared duds like Bazooka bubblegum and Good & Plenty from the shame of yet another appearance on the “Worst” list.
We should point out that this list is completely subjective – strictly the opinions of several members of the Pavone team – so if you disagree with us or think we omitted some worthy best and worst contenders, feel free to leave a comment.
THE BEST CANDY IN THE BASKET
Snickers – The marketers behind this classic weren’t messing around when they came up with the tagline “Snickers really satisfies.” This thing really does satisfy, which is why it’s consistently one of the most sought-after Halloween candies.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – Hands down, peanut butter cups are the holiday’s most popular option. Beloved by kids and parents alike, they’re usually gone within 24 hours. And if you’re the house on the block that’s giving away the full-sized peanut butter cups (not the foil-wrapped, bite-sized ones), you score major cool points.
Twix – What’s not to love about a treat that combines crisp cookie with caramel and chocolate? It’s a win-win-win combination, which is why Twix is usually the next to disappear (after peanut butter cups) from your Halloween loot.
Kit Kat – Kit Kats are like Twix without the caramel, but even without that key ingredient, these classics are still among the most popular candies in all the land. The great thing about Kit Kats during Halloween? There’s no need to “break me off a piece” and share it with your friends.
Starburst – While much of our top five is dominated by chocolaty treasures, Starburst breaks into the group because it succeeds where so many other non-chocolate candies cannot: It packs a ton of fruity flavor into every tiny bite. In many ways, it’s the perfect palate cleanser in between any of the snacks listed above.
THE WORST CANDY IN THE BASKET
Smarties – Did you know the different colored Smarties represented different flavors? (Apparently the green Smartie is strawberry.) We had no idea either, probably because we always ate them by the handful, which explains why we always thought Smarties just tasted “sugar flavored.”
Candy Corn – We’re not really sure how a candy so iconic can be so terrible, but it is. More than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year, about 30 million pounds of which will be thrown out two weeks after Halloween.
Raisins – Yeah, yeah, we know raisins are “nature’s candy.” That label might make them a fun treat any other day of the year, but on Halloween, they’re just dried grapes.
Dots – Are these things supposed to be soft or hard? Because they’re kind of both, if that’s even possible. And you’d better like the taste, because you’ll be picking these things out of your molars for the next three days.
Anything “Fun Sized” – Remember when Halloween candy bars were shorter than the regular bar, but you still got about two good bites? They still make those treats (they call those “bite size”), but they’re being replaced in many plastic jack-o-lanterns by candy bars that are “fun-sized.” These microscopic treats offer barely one bite, and there’s absolutely nothing “fun” about that.
MARKETING LESSON: Every food and beverage category has its favorites and least favorites. The only question is, which list is your brand on?