How to make the most of the Halloween category

Toby Hill takes a disembodied eye over the key components of an effective Halloween range, drawing on expert insight into trends, NPD and merchandising


Halloween continues to grow and grow, wrapping its tentacles around British culture as a malign US influence inspires more parties, more treats and more tricking. It’s now the UK’s third biggest retail event, worth more than £419m, with 53% of families and 77% of young adults buying into the category. Last year alone, Halloween sales grew 5.2%, according to Kantar statistics.

As a result, putting a little time into preparing for the occasion – and creating in-depot theatre to promote it – is well worth the effort.

Spooky sharing sweets

The stand-out sales opportunity of Halloween is, of course, sugar confectionery, particularly in large sharing bags for trick-or-treaters or parties. Fifty-two per cent of consumers say they buy gifts for trick-or-treaters, while a further 40% say they’ll be hosting some form of party or gathering. Such events are driving sales of sharing bags, which were worth £5.8m in 2018 – a significant 11.8% increase on the previous year.

Moreover, the appeal of sugar confectionery reaches far beyond children: 73% of those 2018 Halloween confectionery sales came from childless households, Kantar found.
Clearly, there is a significant sales opportunity here for wholesalers that get it right. To do so, Perfetti Van Melle trade marketing manager Mark Roberts emphasises the importance of offering a range of packs and formats to appeal to all shoppers.

“Wholesalers should ensure they’re maximising basket spend by offering shoppers the opportunity to trade up to bigger pack sizes,” Roberts says. “This year, we’ve introduced new Fruittella Favourites XL bag to meet this consumer need. We’ve also made sure to include sharing bags containing individual wrapped sweets in our Halloween offering to cater to the growing consumer trend for portionable treats.”

Traditional confectionery manufacturer Swizzels also has an established range of products tailored for Halloween. The firm’s Trick or Sweet bag contains a range of immediately recognisable brands – Parma Violets, Refresher Bars and Love Hearts – all trussed up in spooky Halloween packaging. The firm also offers a Trick or Treat Lolly Mix bag and a Monster Treats bag – the latter again meeting demand for bigger pack sizes, which are perceived as offering better value, as well as being perfect for parties.

Agonisingly Sour

Within sugar confectionery, sour sweets are a perfect gustatory match for the thrills and chills of Halloween. So, it’s no surprise to find manufacturers popping up every year with new sour inventions. Perfetti Van Melle’s new Chupa Chups Sour Infernals range of lollies, jellies, gums and chews are likely to prove popular with salivating trick-or-treaters, while Swizzels offers sharing packs with its Sour Apple Refreshers Chew Bar.

“Sour products are a £42m market and growing 21% – we expect these extremely sour Lemon, Cola, Apple and Strawberry-flavoured products to be incredibly popular at Halloween, especially for trick-or-treating,” says Roberts.

Sinister soft drinks

Once the sweets are ready, the next vital component for a night of Halloween fun has to be the soft drinks.

“Soft drinks are increasingly important to retailers for Halloween, growing 6.2% (£35.8m) in value last year, with most of this growth driven by the flavoured carbonates segment,” says Amy Burgess, senior trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP). Within the category, she suggests stepping up stocks of Fanta in the run-up to Halloween, with new flavour Fanta Dark Orange perfectly suited to the occasion.

Burgess also emphasises the importance of sharing formats during Halloween. Key trends within the soft drinks sector more broadly include the dominance of zero sugar – with Fanta Grape Zero joining CCEP’s range of Fanta Zero products earlier this year – and premiumisation, as health-conscious adults look for alternatives to alcohol.

“Premium and artisan options are helping to drive the growth of low- and no-sugar soft drinks, with products like Appletiser proving popular whether being enjoyed on their own, or as an ingredient for cocktail- or mocktail-making at home,” Burgess says.

Another popular adult soft drink option is Barr’s new Bundaberg, a range of craft-brewed, premium non-alcoholic beverages from Australia. The UK range comprises six varieties, which can add flavour to a Halloween party: Ginger Beer, Root Beer, Blood Orange, Peach, Pink Grapefruit and Lemon, Lime & Bitters.

Beefing up the booze range

While we may think of Halloween as primarily a children’s event, it’s long provided a convenient excuse for students and adults to throw parties, too. As a result, Halloween and Bonfire Night have become huge drivers for beers, wines and spirits sales.

Literally named ‘the Devil’s winecellar’, Concha y Toro’s popular Casillero del Diablo wine range is a great fit for Halloween. “We see an enormous spike in sales around this period, and, in fact, it has become the second largest occ-asion after Christmas,” says Paul Green, customer marketing manager at Concha y Toro UK. The firm also has marketing links with Sky Cinema, which it uses in the build-up to Halloween to create a sense of identification between the brand and the annual ghoul-fest.

The most likely people to hold Halloween parties are students, so it’s worth wholesalers located close to universities stocking up on alcoholic drinks popular with that demographic. RTD brand VK has a range of fruity flavours perfect for student Halloween parties, from Black Cherry to Orange & Passion Fruit to Corky’s Sour Cherry, all available in convenient multipacks.

Non-alcoholic beverages such as energy drinks are also popular at parties, and the success of Boost Energy Red Berry, which until now has been exclusively available in Northern Ireland, has prompted the company to introduce a new bottle format throughout the UK, with 5p from every sale being donated to charity.

Matches

With their flames and their monsters, Bonfire Night and Halloween both mark the UK’s inexorable journey into the darker half of the year, when cold and shadows cloak the country’s quiet lanes and deserted graveyards. As a result, both festivals incorporate various forms of light and fire into their traditions – making matches a must-stock item as they approach.

“This really is the optimum time to stock a range of matches, meeting different user occasions and needs,” says Gavin Anderson, general sales manager at Republic Technologies. “For example, Cook’s matches are targeted at kitchen usage, whereas Bryant and May Extra Long matches are ideally suited for lighting candles and fireworks.”

Thrilling in-store theatre

Finally, once you’ve perfected your Halloween range, it’s worth investing a little time in presenting it in an eye-catching manner to catch shoppers’ attention.

“Wholesalers should consider placing themed displays in areas of high footfall to add excitement in store,” says Roberts. “Consumer favourites that have been given a spooky look will add to these displays, ensuring they stand out.”

Supplier viewpoint

Mark Roberts, trade marketing manager, Perfetti Van Melle
Mark Roberts, trade marketing manager, Perfetti Van Melle

£1 packs are still vital to Halloween confectionery sales, but be sure to offer a wide range with opportunities to trade up to bigger pack sizes as sharing is key. Also, ensure that you appeal to a wide range of ages and demographics as Halloween’s audience is growing. Furthermore, stock products that are individually wrapped, as these work well for both trick-or-treaters and parties and build on the growing trend for portion control. Strong displays including trusted brands will also grab the attention of shoppers.”

Ranjit Singh, Parans
Minimarket, Rothwell, Leeds

“We’ll bring in quite a bit of additional stock for Halloween. We’ve got packets of lollies from Swizzels, we’ll do all the gimmicky stuff like masks and pumpkins, and we’ll have toffee apples and fudge. We’ll put them together on a small display and it definitely brings additional customers into the store.”

Bat Bashir, Belle Vue
Convenience Store, Middlesbrough

“Halloween is great for my store. I’m in a less affluent area, and a lot of pound stores have been closing down recently, so more people come here instead. We’ll stock the key sugar confectionery lines, as well as costumes and gimmicky things, so people feel they can get whatever they need from us.”

Sid Sidhu, Budgens, Kenilworth, Warwickshire

“We’ll put together a lot of in-store theatre to add a bit of atmosphere. We’ll order around 300 pumpkins to have in shippers outside the store. We usually have a toy stand, with glow-in-the-dark bracelets, masks and fake axes. We source those from BJ Toys. And we’ll often have a display of Halloween themed flowers, with ghosts and witches popping out between the petals.”

Jacqui Bailey, Spar London Road Bakery, Boston, Lincolnshire

“On the convenience side we do all the Halloween Fantas and trick-or-treat sweets, and we’ll decorate the store, putting spiders’ webs in the windows. Then in the bakery, we’ll design and make up from scratch some special Halloween treats, like bat-covered doughnuts or spider cakes. We also do a fancy dress competition for kids while they’re trick-or-treating.”

 

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Paul Hill
Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. Paul can be found on Twitter on @BW_PaulHill, or can be contacted via paul.hill@newtrade.co.uk and 020 7689 3376.

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