Halloween not going to be cursed for candy, chocolate makers
It turns out candy makers didn't need to worry about a pandemic-cursed Halloween after all.
Sales of candies and chocolate are trending higher this year as people anchored at home to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus appear to have wound up with a sweeter tooth than ever before.
That's likely welcome news to retailers and chocolatiers alike who view Halloween as the industry's biggest payday - but were worried they may have been in for a spine-chilling fright as policymakers urge children to avoid trick-or-treating due to COVID-19.
Ontario issued guidance earlier this month for trick-or-treating to be paused this year in several regions, including Toronto, amid a second wave of COVID-19 cases in the province. But Canada's chief public health officer Theresa Tam has said there is no need to cancel Halloween in non-hotspot areas, provided safety precautions are taken.
"There's not going to be 500 kids coming to your house ringing a bell to get candies like we usually do," said Martin Parent, president of Mondelez International Inc.'s Canadian division. "Maybe the five or six [kids] within your bubble for neighbourhoods that will do it."
Despite the uncertainty about Halloween, Canadians are on pace to increase their spending on chocolate and candy products amid a rise in home snacking during the pandemic. Market researcher Euromonitor International expects to see a 4.6 per cent increase in sales of seasonal chocolate this year to $598 million, while candies should see a modest 2.4 per cent hike in sales to $690 million.
For Toronto-based confectionery maker Kerr Bros. Ltd. - the company behind the polarizing molasses kisses candy - planning for Halloween usually takes place a day after last year's annual event, said Kerr's president Ryan Martic. This year, of course, was different.
"We were well into production when the reality of COVID became apparent," Martic said in a phone interview. Candy production had to be scaled down as Kerr's opted to stagger worker shifts to abide by physical distancing requirements while ensuring all staff was equipped with face shields and masks to prevent catching the virus, she said.
The result was a lot more overtime work between March to July to get ahead of purchase orders from their retail partners, the majority of which didn't adjust their Halloween selling plans, Martic said. Sales for Kerr's candy were up about 25 per cent so far this year thanks to anxious snackers and it appears that a lack of trick-or-treating in some parts of the country won't hurt the company's bottom line, she added.
"Usually the last two weeks of October have the biggest Halloween candy sales, as you can imagine, but this year it appears that consumers are buying their candy while they're out doing their regular shopping instead of waiting," Martic said.
Mondelez's Parent said the company took lessons on how to manage candy sales during a pandemic after it went through Easter, another big day for chocolate fans.
"I was worried that we would be sitting on inventory from the early stages of confinement and that Easter was not going to be the same [as previous years]," Parent told BNN Bloomberg in an interview.
It turns out Parent's fears were unfounded. To help boost sales during Easter, Mondelez's Canadian staff brought product displays closer to store checkouts to increase their visibility to customers, knowing that fewer people were out grocery shopping.
That did lead to an increase in Easter sales, but Parent still anticipated back in April that trick-or-treating would be a little different this year and adjusted production after internal forecasts showed sales may decline by single-digits from last year. Mondelez Canada also reduced the number of products it sells by about 40 per cent to better manage its supply chain during the pandemic.
"In April, we had to backtrack and say [to our retailers], 'Hey, we don't believe this season is going to be the same, we're going to simplify the portfolio so you don't have as much liability on the floor,'" Parent said. "A simplified portfolio makes it easier for [retailers] to manage their supply chains, but also to manage peaks and valleys within store traffic."
A spokesperson from Nestle Canada, which makes chocolates such as Coffee Crisp and Kit Kat, didn't provide specifics on how sales would fare this Halloween but said in an email to BNN Bloomberg the company has seen an increased demand for larger-sized packs of chocolates over the summer and placed their products out in stores earlier to give consumers more time to shop.
A Loblaw Co. spokesperson told BNN Bloomberg in an email that the retail giant expected that there could be a lower demand for Halloween candy this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and reduced its stock of those products accordingly.
"We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the sales so far as more Canadians seem to be buying candy early and enjoying it at home," the spokesperson said. "That said, we expect to have more than enough supply come Halloween however people choose to celebrate."