Americans load up on candy, trick or treat - or not

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Halloween candy and decorations are displayed at a store, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Freeport, Maine. U.S. sales of In this year of the pandemic, with trick-or-treating still an uncertainty, Halloween candy were up 13% over last year in the month ending Sept. 6, according to data from market research firm IRI and the National Confectioners Association. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Americans may not know if trick or treating will happen this year because of the pandemic, but they’re buying a lot of Halloween candy while they wait to find out.

U.S. sales of Halloween candy were up 13% over last year in the month ending Sept. 6, according to data from market research firm IRI and the National Confectioners Association. That’s a bigger jump than the usual single-digit increases. Sales of Halloween chocolate alone are up 25%.

Earlier Halloween displays at some chains, like dollar stores, Meijer and ShopRite, likely helped boost sales. But Americans may also be in a mood to celebrate after months of pandemic anxiety.

Cassandra Ambrosius, who lives in central Wisconsin, was surprised to see bags of Halloween candy at the grocery in early September; her husband snapped one up. She expects to buy more bags as Halloween gets closer, because she thinks people in her neighborhood will figure out how to trick or treat safely.

“I’m sure people are just excited for a little sense of normalcy,” Ambrosius said.

That enthusiasm is good news for candy companies, which rely on the 10-week Halloween period for nearly 14% of their annual $36 billion in U.S. sales. Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year for candy makers, followed closely by Christmas and Easter. Valentine's Day is a distant fourth.

Ferrara Candy Co., which makes Brach’s Candy Corn, says it saw online demand three months earlier than usual. Some stores also asked Ferrara for earlier shipments.

But while early demand are strong, sales in late October could suffer if the coronavirus clamps down on trick or treat. Fifty-five percent of Mars Wrigley's Halloween candy sales usually happen in the last two weeks of October, says Tim LeBel, the company's chief Halloween officer and head of U.S. sales.