As Halloween approaches amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, confectionery manufacturers and industry stakeholders are taking steps to ensure that children will still have a safe and fun experience this October 31. A survey conducted by The National Confectioners Association (NCA) in September found that 80% of Americans believe there are creative and safe options to celebrate Halloween in 2020. Some households are forgoing normal holiday activities like parties, while others are turning to innovations like social distancing candy chutes made from pipes fixed to stair railing.
To help prepare Americans for an unprecedented Halloween season, the NCA launched a new resource, Halloween Central, to provide information on safe ways to celebrate the holiday. 66% of those surveyed by the industry group said they plan to trick-or-treat this year. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists “traditional trick-or-treating” among the “higher risk activities” for Halloween on its website. Among the ways to reduce the possibility of COVID transmission, the CDC suggests preparing grab and go goodie bags of treats.
“There’s no question that Halloween will look different this year, and innovative approaches endorsed by the CDC like outdoor, one-way trick-or-treating can bring a little fun to the fall,” NCA president and CEO John Downs said in a release issued by the organization in September. “Hyperlocal decision-making will determine whether this Halloween season means trick-or-treating with the appropriate safety precautions, more candy bowl moments at home with family and close friends, or just more time for celebrating the season this October.”
Regardless of the challenges the novel coronavirus poses to normal Halloween activities, data released by NCA in mid-September shows sales of Halloween candy and chocolate were up 13% when compared to the same four-week period in 2019.
Here are some ways that the confectionery industry’s top players are responding to health and safety concerns during Halloween 2020:
The maker of M&Ms, Snickers, and Twix, Mars Wrigley, launched an app-based digital Halloween experience on October 1 called TREAT TOWN that enables families to virtually trick or treat for actual candy. Users will create personalized avatars, select Halloween decorations for their in-app door, and “knock” on the digital doors of other users.
Image courtesy of Mars Wrigley
“The virtual Mars Wrigley TREAT TOWN Halloween experience demonstrates how we’re reinventing our business to bring better moments and more smiles to consumers,” Anton Vincent, president of Mars Wrigley North America said in a company release. “Our Mars Wrigley team pivoted quickly to save the traditions and celebrations of Halloween.”
While they are virtually trick-or-treating, participants can earn candy credits that will be redeemed for real Mars Wrigley candy through the company’s retail partners, online or in store.
The Hershey Company
American chocolate and snacks manufacturer The Hershey Company debuted its first-ever Hershey Halloween Squad this month. The group of industry experts – which includes experts in food and lifestyle, parenting, and entertaining and décor – will share information on how to distribute candy to trick-or-treaters using a 6 ft slide, decorating tips, and other advice for celebrating the holiday safely. Hershey Halloween Squad will post tips and recipes on the Hershey Happiness blog.
The company announced its new Halloween product lineup in July – earlier than it normally reveals the seasonal offerings – to drum up excitement in advance of October 31. Hershey’s new Halloween products include Reese’s Franken-Cups, Kit Cat Witch’s Brew Bars, Hershey’s Kisses Vampire chocolates, and Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Crème Fangs.
The Red Pumpkin Project was launched by Nestle Canada this month to help Canadians experience Halloween safely amid the pandemic. Developed in collaboration with the organizations Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada, the Retail Council of Canada, and Today’s Parent, the initiative’s website, RedPumpkinProject.ca, provides safety tips and ideas for safe family activities and DIY projects.
“Halloween is an important tradition for kids and families and new research from Abacus Data indicates that eight in 10 Canadian parents plan to celebrate Halloween this season with their family in some way,” said Chandra Kumar, business executive officer, Confectionery for Nestle Canada, said in a release. “Nestle Canada is proud to be part of the Halloween tradition, which is why we launched the Red Pumpkin Project, an initiative to keep the spirit alive while helping families be safe and creative, however they choose to celebrate.”
Nestle Canada manufactures Halloween candy for the Canadian market at a peanut-free plant in Toronto.
Butterfinger and Baby Ruth producer Ferrero USA’s new 31 Days of Halloween campaign was debuted this month to share 31 creative ways to participate in the season through digital advertising, social media, and influencers.
“Halloween isn’t Halloween without treats, and our brands have been part of the holiday for generations,” Mark Wakefield, senior vice president marketing, Nutella and Chocolate Snacks for Ferrero North America, said in a statement. “This year, we expect treats to play an even bigger role in the memorable moments of Halloween for families and friends as they enjoy the traditions and excitement of the holiday all month long.”
The company plans to share Halloween ideas on Pinterest and shoppable pins through influencers.
The Sour Patch Kids brand is going on a road trip this Halloween season, visiting 12 US cities to make special contactless deliveries of a Sour Patch Kids Halloween package. Aside from the candy inside, the Mondelez brand’s package also captures the Zeitgeist of the pandemic era by including Sour Patch Kids branded toilet paper.
“We know so many kids in the US look forward to typical Halloween traditions like dressing up in costumes and collecting a respectable candy stash,” said Danielle Freid, who manages the Sour Patch Kids brand, in a company release. “We’re hoping to bring the spirit of Halloween to American families with our reverse trick-or-treating experience as a reminder that there are still ways to get creative, have fun and enjoy treats – in a safe way this Halloween.”
Details on the tour dates will be reveled on the brand’s Instagram page, @sourpatchkids. On October 31, people living in the 12 selected cities can enter the Reverse Trick-or-Treat Sweepstakes to win an on-demand delivery of a Sour Patch Kids Halloween package.
Why It Matters
Confectionery manufacturers are turning to technology to find solutions to an ongoing health crisis. The digitally-fueled initiatives being launched by Mondelez, Mars Wrigley, Hershey and others demonstrate the agility and creativity of their teams facing tremendous challenges during an unprecedented time. Halloween 2020 may become an example of how tools like social media, virtual experiences, and digitial hubs can be deployed by the food and beverage industry to help consumers navigate their way through future holidays that take place during a crisis.