Trick your Treat, Halloween treats get smaller
Standing in the center aisle of the pharmacy, with its seasonal display of spooky bat decorations, vampire teeth and fun-sized bags of chocolate, don’t be surprised if something goes wrong.
It’s not a nightmare. Your Halloween candy just got smaller.
A bag of Hershey’s Kisses dark chocolate is now a few ounces smaller than before.
A two-cup pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter is a tenth of an ounce lighter. And Cadbury milk bars are around 10% leaner.
Consumers can partly blame “shrinkflation” – the phenomenon of manufacturers reducing the size of their products rather than raising the price.
Over the past two years, companies have downsized paper products, salty snacks and many other packaged consumer goods as their ingredient, labor and transportation costs have skyrocketed. .
But it’s also part of a years-long plan to make American sweets lower in calories.
In 2017, Mars Wrigley, Ferrero (owner of American candy company Nestlé), Ferrara Candy Company and Lindt (which owns Ghirardelli Chocolate and Russell Stover Chocolates) joined forces to reduce calories, offer a wider range portion sizes and provide labeling that lists calories on the front of their package.
The National Confectioners Association announced last month that 85% of chocolate and candy sold today comes in packages with 200 calories or less per package.
And nearly 100% of candy sold now has front-of-package calorie labels, up from just over half in 2016.
“Five years ago, we were behind the ball on front-of-pack labeling,” said association spokesman Christopher Gindlesperger. “These four companies, which represent about half of the market, have driven remarkable change and rallied the rest of the industry.”
Other measures aim to offer lighter options to candy consumers.
Hershey, for example, introduced “thin” versions of classic candies like Reese’s Cups, York Patties and Kit Kats.
The company has launched a growing list of sugar-free options, from Jolly Ranchers to Twizzlers.
Ferrero’s Kinder Bueno launched individually wrapped minis, and Mars Wrigley launched new sizing options, including a 0.76-ounce Snickers bar that weighs just 100 calories.
Mars Wrigley declined to comment on further portion size reductions, as did Ferrero, Ghirardelli Chocolate and Russell Stover Chocolates.
The start of the pandemic was tough for candy, said Sally Wyatt, food and beverage expert for market research firm IRI.
Many people skipped Easter and Halloween in 2020, and desktop vending machines saw hardly any action.
But 2021 has seen a boom as families comforted themselves with sweet treats, with volume sales up more than 4%, the firm said.
Over the past year, things have changed again, according to IRI data, with sales numbers dropping and prices soaring.
Food prices have risen 11.4% over the past year, the biggest 12-month increase since May 1979.
Business data platform Klover, which collects spending and price data using receipts from 4 million users, found that the price of a king-size pack of peanut butter cups by Reese’s is up 14% in 2022, A Kinder Joy Chocolate Egg Treat with toys is 16% more expensive, and the cost of a regular 1.55 ounce Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar is up 15%.
Klover found that prices for king-sized Skittles were up 10% year-over-year, and prices for Twizzlers Pull ‘N’ Peel cherry candies were up 9%.
In short, many candy sizes and wrappers are going down, but not the prices.
“All of these companies have to make these decisions based on cost,” Wyatt said. “But I can say with certainty that the confectionery companies engaged in these [calorie reductions and front-of-label calorie counts] before inflation starts.
“Products that have transparent labeling outperform others.”
Edgar Dworsky, director of Consumer World and shrink expert, said the phenomenon is common in the candy category.
“Do people pay less attention to the net weight of sweets?” Maybe. Is cutting back on candy the end of the world? No. It’s a treat,” he said.
“Fun size” is subjective, with the size of individual packets and candies under this moniker varying wildly over the years.
Candy may actually be the category that experienced the first contraction, Dworsky said.
In the 1950s, he said, candy companies told vending machine operators they should raise prices from 5 cents per candy bar to 6 cents.
The vending machine people hesitated and asked the confectionery companies to reduce the size of the products.
Message from Dworsky: The only way for consumers to protect themselves from shrinkage is to memorize product weights.
“It will go too far if you open this carton of eggs and there are only 11 inside,” he joked.
Health and nutrition-focused nonprofit groups have long called on candy makers to downsize their products, cut calories, and add a clear calorie count on the front of the label. .
“We applaud these companies for stepping up and helping consumers manage their sugar intake through innovation, transparency and education,” Nancy Roman, president of the Partnership for a Healthier America, said in a statement.
“The results of this engagement show that companies have the opportunity to influence change while maintaining their business models and keeping consumers first.”
With skyrocketing childhood obesity, it’s always an uphill battle.
Portions may be smaller, but the temptation is growing: According to the National Confectioners Association, before the pandemic, Halloween was an 8-week season.
Now it’s 10, maybe 12 weeks. That’s another month for every pharmacy in the country to be overflowing with candy.
For retailers, it’s an opportunity to build excitement and get shoppers into stores for the holidays a little earlier. And it is perfect for greedy customers.
“Retailers and consumers want it,” Wyatt said. Candy, after all, “is one of those inexpensive joys.”