12 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween Candy
How much Americans really spend on Halloween, the history of “fun size” candy, and more sweet facts about your favorite Halloween treats.
Coming together during COVID
It’s no secret that Halloween will be very different this year. But several surveys conducted throughout the summer have found that Americans are unwilling to let the spirit of Halloween waver. According to a National Confectioners Association poll, 74 percent of Millennial moms and young parents think “Halloween is more important than ever this year.” And a survey conducted by Party City found that 96 percent of parents who responded plan on celebrating Halloween in 2020. As for the sweetest part of the holiday, 80 percent of respondents to the NCA’s survey said that they believe Halloween traditions involving candy are irreplaceable. So it would seem that the “treats” part of “trick or treat” isn’t going anywhere.
A lot of people hand out Halloween candy
In 2019, the National Retail Federation found that 68 percent of Americans participated in Halloween. And 69 percent of those planned buy candy—almost 47 percent of the entire U.S. population. It remains to be seen how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect Halloween candy sales. Seventy percent of Party City respondents “plan to seek alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating” this year, so this could mean less filling plastic pumpkins and pillowcases with sugary goodness. But it could also mean more people just gorging themselves on candy at home. Thirty-eight percent of moms in the Party City survey said they planned to buy candy for their own children. Or make a homemade Halloween treat with the best Halloween recipe from your state.
The most popular Halloween candy in America is…
Believe it or not, Skittles! According to September 2019 data from candystore.com, Americans purchase an average of 3.3 million pounds of the chewy rainbow candies every Halloween. They’re also the most popular candy in the most populous state, California. Reese’s peanut butter cups came in a close second with 3 million pounds—and the love of the second-most populous state, Texas. Find out where you can get the best deals on Halloween candy this year. Find out the Skittles color that Americans like the least.
Halloween candy is expensive
During the eight weeks leading up to Halloween, consumers spend $4.6 billion on confectionery products, according to the NCA. And so far this year, sales have been higher than ever, with chocolate sales rising 4.5 percent since the United States went into lockdown in March. Find out how the stars influence your candy preferences with your zodiac sign’s favorite candy.
You consume an absurd number of calories from Halloween candy
Donna Arnett, head of the department of epidemiology at University of Alabama’s Birmingham School of Public Health, estimates the average American kid eats anywhere between 3,500 and 7,000 calories. That max is the same caloric intake as 13 Big Macs. Arnett says kids who eat that much would need to walk for 44 hours or play basketball for 14.5 hours to burn off all those calories.
Candy corn used to have a different name
One of the most famous (and hated!) Halloween candies, candy corn was invented in late 1880s by George Renninger. His employer, Wunderlee Candy Company, began mass-producing the sweet in the early 1900s, originally calling it Chicken Feed. Its characteristic white, orange, and yellow stripes are supposed to resemble a corn kernel.
Too much candy can mess with your head
In an animal study, University of California-Los Angeles researchers found that fructose—a key ingredient of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, found in almost all Halloween candy—can interfere with communication between neurons and affect memory after an injury. Tests conducted by scientists at the University of Montreal and Boston College showed consuming too much glucose, another form of sugar, could result in memory and cognitive deficiencies. Looking to curb your kids’ sweet tooth? These non-food Halloween treats will do the trick.
The poisoned Halloween candy myths are false
Sadly, there are cases of children dying by tampered-with Halloween candy, but none have happened at random. The most famous incident was in 1974, when Ronald Clark O’Bryan knowingly gave his son Timothy Pixie Stix laced with cyanide. He died later that night. The father also gave drugged Pixie Stix to his daughter and three other kids to make it seem like someone was randomly handing out poisonous candy, but none of the kids ate it. O’Bryan was convicted of murder and received a death sentence. That’s just one of the scary and disturbing real things that happened on Halloween.
Not all candy used to come in “fun size”
The candy manufacturer Mars started distributing mini candy bars in 1961, specifically targeting trick-or-treaters, and coined the phrase “fun size” in 1968. The first fun size candies were Snickers and Milky Way. When the Curtiss Candy Co. began making fun size Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars, Mars sued and lost. Now every candy can join in the fun (size).
Tootsie rolls were used in battle
Tootsie Rolls were included in soldiers field rations during World War II to give American troops “quick energy.” They could also hold up under changing weather conditions. In 1950, U.S. and United Nations troops in Korea put out a call for Tootsie Rolls, a code name for mortar shells. When they opened the airdropped box, they discovered they were actually sent Tootsie Roll candies. Luckily, they turned out to be pretty useful. Because of its malleable consistency, they used it to patch up holes in vehicles and equipment, and it was one of few foods soldiers could easily eat in cold temperatures.
Japan sells crazy Kit Kats
Kit Kat bars were introduced in Japan in 2000, and now more than 350 flavors of Kit Kats are sold in that country. While some flavors seem relatively normal—coconut, cheesecake, and strawberry—some are much more eccentric, like wasabi, purple sweet potato, butter, and chili. There was also a limited edition “sublime gold” bar. It was a single dark chocolate stick with gold leaf coating. It cost 2,016 yen—around $16. Teach your kids the fascinating history of the Halloween jack-o-lantern before the holiday rolls around.
You can freeze leftover chocolate
Chocolate can stay good for six to eight months past its expiration date if it’s kept in a freezer, so you can have leftover Halloween candy all year long. Just make sure it’s tightly sealed.
These Halloween candies no longer exist
Notable discontinued Halloween treats include Brach’s Dem Bones, Chicken Dinner Candy Bar, Hershey’s S’mores, Cookies-n-Cream Twix, Astro Pops, Nestle Wonder Balls, and almond and dark chocolate M&Ms. Some purple M&Ms might just set the spooky tone. We think some of them are definitely vintage candies that deserve a comeback, but for others—like candy cigarettes—it’s probably for the best.
For more fun facts, costume ideas, traditions, candy inspiration, spooky entertainment, and updates on how October 31 will look different this year, check out our Halloween Guide.
- National Confectioners’ Association: “New Survey Data: Halloween Is Happening And Americans Are Ready To Celebrate Creatively And Safely Throughout October”
- KMBC News: “New surveys find majority of parents plan to celebrate Halloween in 2020”
- candystore.com: “Most Popular Halloween Candy by State [Interactive Map]”
- USA Today; National Retail Federation; lifebuzz.com; Inc.; Live Science; Time; New York Times; University of California; Harvard; Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader; Snopes; Fortune; Huffington Post; candyfavorites.com