MCKEESPORT, Pa. | In a blocklong warehouse at the McKeesport Candy Co., wooden pallets are piled high with boxes of candy fangs, wax mustaches, peanut-butter-and-chocolate pumpkins, even a bag of “blood” that resembles a hospital IV.
“The grosser the candy, the better it’s going to sell,” says owner Jon H. Prince.
Though kids love gore and gimmicks when it comes to Halloween — how can you not love a pair of wax fangs? — experts say they still are drawn to the classics their parents favor when filling the family treat bowl every year.
First on the list? Chocolate.
“The truth is that there are many tried-and-true candy favorites, especially at Halloween,” says Susan Smith, a spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association. “Holidays represent tradition, and small traditional favorites are the true kid pleasers on Halloween night.”
Sixty-eight percent of kids say they like to get treats made with chocolate, while 9 percent go for lollipops, 7 percent for gummy candy and another 7 percent for gum, the association said.
Last year, sales of gummy candies were on the rise, but not just the little colorful bears you might be used to. Think gory gummy — eyeballs, tongues, fingers, brains and even rats are all popular for Halloween.
In all, Halloween candy accounts for about $2.2 billion in sales a year, making it the biggest holiday for confections after Easter.
New variations of traditional treats help drive some of those sales, Miss Smith says. Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born Inc., known primarily for its marshmallow Peeps candies at Easter, has added Peeps Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pumpkins this year.
According to Yahoo, the top searched Halloween candies online are Hershey’s chocolate and Kisses, followed by Snickers, gummy bears and gum. Candy corn, that icon of Halloween treats that dates back to the 1800s, is No. 10 on the list.
Halloween is the biggest and busiest time of year for the Hershey Co., which makes snack-sized Reese’s peanut butter cups, Hershey’s chocolate bars, Twizzlers, Kit Kat bars and other candies. The company said its most popular brand at this time of year is Reese’s for its peanut-butter cup and chocolate-and-peanut-butter pumpkins.
“Reese’s is magic,” says Rick Rocchi, who oversees marketing of Hershey’s brands around seasonal events such as Halloween and Valentine’s Day. “Everyone remembers receiving beloved Reese’s peanut-butter cups during their Halloween adventures.”
In Anoka, Minn., which claims to be the Halloween Capital of the World, with a holiday parade that started in 1920, Jen Thorkildson generally buys the smaller, snack-sized chocolate bars to hand out every year. The 35-year-old mom’s two children, 9 and 7, head straight for the chocolate once trick-or-treating is finished.
“The kids love getting 100 Grand Bars. Also, a few people give out full-size bars, and they think that is really great,” she says.
In Pennsylvania, Britta Silver, 45, of Mount Lebanon buys six or seven bags of candy for Halloween every year. A mom of 7-year-old twins and a 4-year-old, Mrs. Silver says she makes sure to buy candy like Reese’s peanut-butter cups and Tootsie Rolls that the family likes — in case there are leftovers.