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Trick or treat? High Halloween candy prices are scaring shoppers

By Jake Beardslee · October 28, 2023

In brief…

  • Candy prices up 13% this Halloween, over double general grocery inflation
  • Poor cocoa and sugar harvests globally driving up costs
  • Shoppers buying less candy and switching to cheaper brands
  • Retailers offering deals, but price relief unlikely through 2024
For the second straight year, U.S. shoppers face steep double-digit price hikes for Halloween candy due to poor global harvests and rising costs for candy-makers.  MatthewHoobin / Wikimedia

For the second Halloween in a row, trick-or-treaters should brace themselves for frighteningly high candy prices. According to retail price tracker Datasembly, candy and gum prices have risen an average of 13% compared to October 2021. This steep increase comes on the heels of a 14% jump last year, meaning Halloween candy prices have more than doubled general grocery inflation of 6% over the same period.

“The price of candy has gotten to be outrageous,” said Jessica Weathers, a small business owner in Shiloh, Illinois, in an interview with ABC News. “It doesn’t make sense to me to spend $100 on candy.” In previous years, Weathers usually bought a lot of candy for Halloween festivities. However, with the steep rise in prices this year, she could only afford two small bags. When she runs out of candy, Weathers intends to turn off the lights on her porch to signal she has nothing left to hand out to trick-or-treaters.

Other shoppers are changing their candy-buying habits as well. Market research firm Numerator found that around one-third of U.S. consumers intend to buy cheaper store-brand candies for trick-or-treaters this Halloween.

Several factors are causing the price hikes. Cocoa prices have reached 44-year highs due to heavy rains limiting production in West Africa. Meanwhile, drought conditions from El Nino are expected to persist well into 2024, meaning “there may be no price relief in sight,” said Dan Sadler of market research firm Circana to ABC. Global sugar prices are also near 12-year highs after poor harvests in India and Thailand.

On top of that, candy-makers face rising expenses for labor, packaging, peanuts, and other ingredients. As a result, prices are up across the board - even for giant candy companies. Hershey’s, for instance, has raised prices 7% or more for seven straight quarters. The company acknowledged this week that these higher costs have started to dampen customer demand.

For shoppers hoping to keep costs down, retail chains like Aldi and major candy companies like Hershey’s are offering value packs and smaller package sizes. But for now, consumers should brace for another Halloween of frighteningly high candy prices.