Hershey is ready to talk about Halloween. Yes, it’s only July
Hershey Co. and other candy makers are eager to see whether Halloween can go on as hoped in 2020, or if the coronavirus pandemic deals a blow to sales plans.
In Hershey’s case, it is announcing four new products in early July, a move that could help generate early sales months before the holiday.
Hershey and its rivals rely on Halloween and other festive occasions for a good chunk of sales. This year, it’s anyone’s guess whether U.S. shoppers will stock up on candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters and to serve at parties on Oct 31. Before the pandemic took hold, brands were excited about the holiday falling on a Saturday in 2020, a day of the week that could spur more party-going. Now, that remains to be seen.
Hershey has already been talking with retailers about bringing Halloween assortments into stores earlier to spur sales, CEO Michele Buck said on a conference call in late April. Hershey wants to “be prepared for a strong recovery while also making smart choices to mitigate risk if consumer behavior remains impacted,” she said. So it is trying to bring out the right mix of products, including some with lower price points, and boosting its e-commerce plan.
Hershey is out with new takes on longstanding products with Frankenstein, witch and vampire themes. Reese’s Franken-Cup Peanut Butter Cups come with milk chocolate on the top of the cup and a green creme on the bottom half. Thankfully, the peanut butter filling is unchanged.
In Kit Kat Witch’s Brew, the chocolate coating is replaced with a marshmallow flavor, but the creme is green in keeping with the witch theme. For all the talk about food marketers trimming their lineups, Kit Kat keeps adding flavors, which this year have included birthday cake, lemon crisp and, most recently, apple pie.
Vampire Milk Chocolate Kisses have foil wrapping featuring bats. The candy at first looks like a regular Hershey’s Kiss, but when bitten reveals a gooey strawberry creme.
The fourth new product, Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme Fangs, is smaller than a typical Cookies ‘N’ Creme bar and features fangs etched into the bar. When someone strategically bites the bar, it becomes a set of fangs meant for a selfie moment—there are even instructions on the bag.
Some prior Halloween and fall-themed products will be back, including Kit Kat Pumpkin Pie Miniatures, whose wafers are dipped in an orange pumpkin pie-flavored creme. There are also 90-piece bags of mini-sized Hershey's bars, Kit Kats and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in glow-in-the-dark wrappers, and plenty of versions of pumpkin-shaped Reese's. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Kit Kat are two of the top-selling chocolate candies in the U.S. during Halloween. The third is Snickers, from rival Mars Wrigley.
Candy marketers already made it through one COVID-19 test. Overall, Hershey’s Easter candy sales held up about as expected despite the pandemic, Buck said in April. That holiday, which this year fell on April 12, had the benefit of people coming into stores to stock up on groceries early and perhaps make impulse purchases of candy to have for at-home snacking. But sales in the week leading up to the holiday were not as strong, Buck said. Hershey pulled its 2020 financial guidance in April, due to the uncertainty stemming from COVID-19.