By Deborah Cassell, Executive Editor
I should have bought those Star Trek PEZ Dispensers the day I laid eyes on them. It was last fall, and I was in World Market. At the time, I figured I’d just add the collection to the Christmas wish list I e-mail my parents every year. By the time December rolled ‘round, the set had vanished and was available only online, in limited quantities - no doubt destined to become a cult classic like the original TV series starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock and Nichelle Nichols as my favorite character: Lt. Uhura.
My brother and I grew up watching “Star Trek” together, so I was totally geeked about the big-screen prequel that came out last year, starring Zoe Saldana as a young Nyota Uhura. But I was even more excited about my Halloween costume, which I’d actually won on eBay in 2008. After it arrived too late for me to wear that year, I suffered the delayed gratification of donning the bright red Star Fleet-issued uniform 12 months later. It was worth the wait.
I love Halloween. So do many of my friends, who treat the holiday like a competitive sport. Prior to my stint as the Starship Enterprise’s first female communications officer, I paid homage to other nostalgic heroines by dressing as Elvira (Mistress of the Dark) and Audrey Hepburn (Holly Golightly) in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” for example.
Many people share my affection for All Hallow’s Eve. I recall a story told to my colleagues and me by a certain ceo at the recent Sweets & Snacks Expo about how his New Jersey neighbors line up around the block for Halloween at his house, where he generously doles out pallets full of his company’s confections.
Yes, Halloween has become synonymous with candy. Case in point: Peapod reports that at this time of year, its candy sales are 140% above average, or almost 2.5 times normal sales. Just who’s buying? According to Mintel Intl., it’s consumers over the age of 65 who “are the most likely to keep seasonal chocolate around the house for Christmas, Easter and Halloween” - not necessarily for themselves, but for guests and grandchildren.
This October, new products for the latter include Snap-N-Glow Necklaces from Koko’s Confectionery and Novelty, Creepy Peepers and Eye Candy from R.M. Palmer, Halloween Scary Sounds Pumpkins containing Smarties from Ford Gum & Machine Co. and TROLLI Gummi Mummies from Farley’s and Sathers.
Elsewhere at retail, “Fangtastic sweets” from Dylan’s Candy Bar include Blood Bags, Skelanimals Mints, Ghostbusters Slimer Sours and a Vampire Candy Kit, complete with Dracula Drool, a Blood Bar, Blood Sucker Candy, Vampire Fangs and Vampire Hair Cotton Candy.
Meanwhile, Sugar Factory offers a Vampire Lollipop Bouquet, Blood Red Vampire Brew Hot Chocolate, a Solid Chocolate Green Shimmer Witch, Medusa’s Candy Cauldron and an Ooey Chewy Gooey Halloween Bucket.
I, myself, recently bought some orange-and-black-wrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Minis. And I’ll be sure to celebrate National Candy Corn Day, Oct. 30 (after all, one serving is just 140 calories, according to the National Confectioners Association).
Once the holiday has passed, there’s still the trick of using up those leftover treats. The Promotion in Motion Cos. suggests repurposing them “to prevent post-Halloween pig-outs…in creative new ways at home, at school or at work,” which could lead to cross-merchandising opportunities for retailers.
For example, combine a cup each of Fisher Milk Chocolate Peanuts, Sun-Maid Milk Chocolate Raisins, chopped dried apricots, dried cranberries, bite-sized pretzels, rice or corn cereal squares, dried banana chips, salted sunflower seeds and salted Fisher cashew pieces for a mix that can be enjoyed “when the mood strikes.” Or add those same milk chocolate raisins to an oatmeal cookie recipe to boost flavor, texture and nutrients like potassium, fiber, calcium, iron and protein. You could even incorporate Welch’s Fruit Snacks in cupcakes “for a chewy surprise in every bite.”
By the time retailers read this, Halloween will almost be over, and your stores may already be decorated for Thanksgiving. Maybe you’ve even set up shop for Christmas, filling seasonal aisles with shelves full of red and green everything. Me, I’ll probably still be contemplating my costume - nothing like a little procrastination to get the creative juices flowing. If all else fails, there’s always Uhura. She never gets old - at least, not in this Trekkie’s mind.
Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
It is with fond memories that I depart Candy Industry and Retail Confectioner after three years of working in the wonderful world of confections. Highlights have included tours of the Jelly Belly, Ferrara Pan, Primrose Candy, Mars, Ethel M and Godiva plants as well as visits to retailers ranging from World Market and Aldi to Dylan’s Candy Bar, Sugar Factory and M&M’S World, not to mention “the candy show.” Thank you to everyone who helped make my life so satisfyingly sweet during this time. E-mail me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.