By Bernie Pacyniak
Editor-in-Chief
Candy Industry
pacyniakb@bnpmedia.com

getting fresh: It's all good this Halloween

Remember returning home from Halloween and sorting out the day’s treasures? Didn’t you hate the people that gave you apples? Or worse yet, some – having run out of treats – would drop a few pennies into the bag. Then there were the home-baked treats. I mean, yes, these people had nothing but the best of intentions, but as a youngster growing up in the Bucktown area of Chicago (I couldn’t afford a house there now), all I wanted was some “real” candy.

At the risk of dating myself – we’re talking early and mid 1960s – all the neighborhood kids hit as my homes as we could during that post-school, pre-dinner window. No parents in tow for us, mind you.

Once done, the next best thing to getting the candy was sorting it, of course. Good stuff from mediocre stuff to the apples, pennies and home-baked cookies (already in crumbs).

All of us back then appreciated homeowners that not only gave generously, but gave branded products, as well. After all, this opportunity for free sweets came only once a year.

Well, it seems like much hasn’t changed regarding Halloween treats during the past 40 or so years. According to a recent Nielsen Co. survey, consumers purchase less private-label or store-brand candies during the Halloween season than during the rest of the year.

Typically, store brands have an 8.1% share annually. During Halloween, however, that percentage drops down to 5.6%. And this applies to both chocolate and non-chocolate items.

According to Nielsen’s Todd Hale, senior v.p., Consumer & Shopper Insights, consumers tend to “splurge” during the holidays and/or take advantage of promotions and price reductions typically associated with this key confectionery season.

“Candy manufacturers invest a great deal of marketing dollars to build brand equity in candy, and private label has not been able to overcome that investment and grab significant share,” he adds.

It also stems from parents knowing what kids like and the potential fallout from giving out “cheap candies,” something children pick up on really quick. Amazing, isn’t it, that with so much that’s different in the world today, some things don’t change at all.

That’s also evident in the other press release about Halloween that I received the other day. According to IBISWorld, candy sales during this year’s Halloween are expected to reach $1.89 billion, a jump of 6.8%. As Toon van Beeck, senior analyst at IBISWorld, points out, “Economic recovery appears to be around the corner and consumers are enthusiastically looking to escape their recessionary woes.”

And while folks may cut back on costumes, decorations and greetings cards, it appears no one wants to skimp on candy. Rightly so, I might add.

One of the reasons could be that consumers are purchasing confections to keep for themselves, at least that’s what a recent National Confectioners Association (NCA) survey suggests.

According to the NCA poll, 40% of Americans admit that they purposely hold back on dispensing all their treats, instead of giving it all away. One-third go one step further: They grab a handful from the bowl and squirrel it away so that those munchkins don’t stand a chance at getting their favorites.

For shame! And you know who you are out there.

Of course, the good news is that Halloween remains one of the confectionery industry’s premier seasonal periods, a time when everyone can enjoy one of life’s sweet moments, regardless of whether we don a costume or not.

So, candymakers, enjoy the season.

WCF Launches Cocoa Livelihoods Program in Ghana

The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) has announced the launch of its Cocoa Livelihoods Program in Ghana, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and 12 chocolate industry companies, including The Hershey Co., Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Co. and Cargill. The program is expected to significantly improve the livelihoods of nearly 60,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana over the next five years.

"We welcome this opportunity to improve the lives of so many Ghanaian cocoa farmers and look forward to collaborating with other stakeholders to make this program a success," says Anthony Fofie, ceo, Ghana Cocoa Board. "Since February, the Ghana Cocoa Board has been actively engaged on the program's Steering Committee helping to plan for the start of activities in the 2010 growing season."

The work in Ghana is part of a larger, five-country program targeting 200,000 cocoa-growing households across Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia. Activities in Ghana will focus on improving production and quality at the farm level, equipping farmers with business skills, promoting diversification of income, and improving access to inputs and support services.

In Ghana, 21 districts in the Ashanti, Eastern, Brong-Ahafo, Western and Central Regions will benefit from the program. Accra will serve as the headquarters.

"Making real progress against hunger and poverty starts with small farmers," says Richard Rogers, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Crops like cocoa represent a critical portion of Africa's agricultural economy, and improving farmer knowledge and productivity, and the quality of the cocoa production can help these small farmers boost their yields and incomes so they can improve their lives."

For more information, visit www.worldcocoafoundation.org.

Wolfgang Candy wins CVS award for Absolutely Divine cookies

Wolfgang Candy Co. has been awarded CVS/Pharmacy’s Field Choice Award for Best New Store Brands for its Absolutely Divine brand Milk Chocolate Topped & Caramel Filled Truffle Cookies.

For the Field Choice Awards, CVS store personnel from around the country voted on their favorite new store brand products in each major sales category: Health, Beauty and Consumables. The Absolutely Divine cookies won the Consumables category the vote by a large margin, according to Wolfgang.

For more information, visit www.wolfgangcandy.com.

Otis Spunkmeyer recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, California-based Otis Spunkmeyer is offering The Pink Cookie, a 1.33-oz. chocolate cookie made with pink candy-coated chocolate pieces, as part of its “Pink Looks Good on You” promotion, which runs through Oct. 31.

The company has pledged a monetary donation to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, whose mission it is to save lives by increasing awareness of breast cancer through education and by providing mammograms for those in need.

For more information, contact a sales representative at 1-888-ASK-OTIS or visit www.spunkmeyer.com.

sweet of the week: EatWhatever Breath Freshener

According to New York-based Eatwhatever, there are just “2 steps to kissable breath.” Step 1: After meals, swallow two or three EatWhatever gel caps with water. Step 2: Suck on an EatWhatever mint. The caps contain organic peppermint and parsley seed oils, which work from the inside to make your breath fresh and your tummy calm. Meanwhile, the mint gives you “instant minty breath while you wait for those gel caps to do their thing.” To ensure kissable breaths among all, Eatwhatever is both gluten- and sugar-free as well as vegan. The suggested retail price per package is $3.99-$4.99. Retailers interested in carrying the product can call 1-646-403-7636. For more information, visit www.eat-whatever.com.