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Halloween is right around the corner, but what will it look like this year as trick-or-treaters fill their bags with candy? Tyler Milfeld, a marketing PhD student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business and former senior brand manager for the Hershey Company, explained how candy companies are adjusting for Halloween during a pandemic.

“Candy companies and retailers are partnering to increase visibility of seasonal options on their websites and apps,” said Milfeld. “As companies have invested more in the e-commerce business, those investments should pay dividends with increased web traffic.”

With so many people using delivery or pick-up services for everyday shopping, retailers can’t rely on in-store displays to drive impulse purchases, so they have found new ways to introduce consumers to their products. Even consumers who don’t opt for pick-up or delivery are making trips to the store less frequently. To maximize the number of opportunities to connect with these shoppers in person, some companies began marketing Halloween products as early as July.

Candy makers are counting on self-consumption, another huge part of Halloween sales, to salvage this year. The numbers are encouraging. With more people staying home and looking to enjoy simple, happy moments, Hershey reports a nine percent increase in “everyday” chocolate sales since the pandemic began.

“People often migrate to familiar brands in times of uncertainty,” Milfeld said. “That is a great place to be as a brand, particularly in these times.”

In addition to promoting what they call “treats for me” and “home candy bowl” sales, candy companies are finding other ways to help consumers rethink Halloween. Mars Wrigley has launched Treat Town, an app that enables consumers to buy or earn virtual candy credits and redeem them for real candy. Hershey’s website offers ideas for backyard or living room “Quarantine-o-ween” gatherings with decorations, costumes, and games.

Since Halloween kicks off the busy holiday season, time is short before retailers and consumers shift their attention to the future. Starting earlier this year has given manufacturers more time to monitor the market and make adjustments as needed. Companies can also promote smaller packages for candy if they expect fewer large parties or trick-or-treat events will take place.

This year in particular, Milfeld said candy companies must work to strike a balance between packaging that is holiday-themed or evergreen.

“For companies with seasonal offerings, it is imperative to meet demand without accruing leftover inventory,” Milfeld said. “As this Halloween offers significant unpredictability, companies may lean a bit more into the evergreen products that do not have the finite consumer window.”


Stacy Estep (865-974-7881,