University of Tennessee

Three Ways Candy Companies Are Adjusting to Halloween During COVID-19

October 5, 2020

Like so many events, Halloween will be a bit different this year. With the specter of the pandemic still looming, some communities have chosen to cancel trick-or-treating for 2020, while social distancing measures are likely to curtail large parties and public gatherings. How are candy manufacturers facing these challenges to what is normally one of their biggest seasons?

Increasing Opportunities to Connect With Consumers

Consumer behavior has changed in 2020. With so many people utilizing delivery or pick-up services for everyday shopping, retailers can’t rely on in-store displays to drive impulse purchases, so they have had to find new ways to expose consumers to their products.

“Candy companies and retailers are partnering to increase visibility of seasonal options on their websites and apps,” says Tyler Milfeld, a marketing Ph.D. student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business and former senior brand manager for the Hershey Company. “As companies have invested more in the e-commerce business, those investments should pay dividends with the increased web traffic.”

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.

Shifting Focus Away From Trick-or-Treating

While trick-or-treat purchases traditionally make up a large percentage of the season’s candy sales, self-consumption is another huge part of the holiday. Candy makers are counting on that to salvage sales this year. The numbers are encouraging. With more people staying home and looking for simple ways to create happy moments, Hershey reports a 9 percent increase in “everyday” chocolate sales since the pandemic began.

“People often migrate to familiar brands in times of uncertainty,” Milfeld says. “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 creates an interactive trick-or-treat experience in which users 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. 

Adjusting Package Sizes and Designs

As Halloween kicks off the busy holiday season, candy companies understand that seasonal sweets have a narrow marketing window before retailers and consumers shift their attention to the next holiday. Starting the Halloween season earlier this year has given manufacturers more opportunities to monitor market conditions and adjust the quantities of holiday-themed candies as needed. Companies can take package size into consideration as well, promoting smaller packages if they expect that fewer large parties or trick-or-treat events will take place. 

This year more than usual, Milfeld says, candy companies must work to strike a balance between holiday-themed and evergreen packaging.

“For companies with seasonal offerings, it is imperative to meet demand without accruing leftover inventory,” he says. “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, business writer/publicist,