Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Halloween Candy (Including Some Healthy Tips!)
Halloween is typically one of the most important days on the Kid Calendar. When the calendar page turns to October, or perhaps September or even late August, a child's thoughts( and often parents' although to a less enthusiastic degree) turn to pumpkin carving, costumes, carnivals, and most importantly, candy.
It's estimated that 9 billion pieces of the Halloween classic -- candy corn -- will be produced this year.
Kids look forward to Halloween night as one of the few times of the year they are allowed to eat as much candy corn and fun-size Hershey bars as they want without much complaint or nagging from Mom and Dad.
There's a lot more to Halloween candy, though, than just the hours spent trick- or-treating or the inevitable morning-after tummy aches. It turns out there are a lot of interesting facts about these treats that are just waiting to be scared up ... as well as some alternatives for the more health-conscious parents out there.
Shocking Halloween Candy Facts
Halloween is the candy industry's biggest cash cow. This day alone accounts for over $2 billion in sales for the industry, about 25% of its annual intake. It is by far the largest candy-purchasing holiday, more so than Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day!
While adults are shelling out this money to buy the Tootsie Rolls, Hershey Bars and candy corn, it's children who are its biggest consumers, with over 93% of little ones under the age of 12 expected to go out trick-or-treating this year.
So what kind of candy is your little Batman or Snow White most likely to get?
Well, surveys say that the most often handed out candy is of the bite-sized variety, the miniature Three Musketeers and Snickers bars, for example. Those fortunate enough to live near or know about really generous neighborhoods might be lucky enough to visit one of the 26% of households that hand out the regular size candy bars, which happen to be the jackpot for the average trick-or-treater.
When polled half of all kids say that chocolate is what they'd like to see their plastic pumpkins and pillow cases filled with, followed by non-chocolate, such as lollipops and Smarties, at 24% and gum at 10%.
The Four Most Popular Halloween Candies
See if you can guess what these are before glancing at the list ...
1. Candy Corn
Candy corn is the king of all Halloween candy. When Halloween comes to mind, not far behind it are those sweet orange and white kernels. Invented in the 1880s by George Renninger, the Wunderle Candy Company of Philadelphia was the first to produce it commercially. Over a century later it hasn't lost its popularity one bit.
According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), in 2001 20 million pounds of candy corn was sold in the United States -- that's roughly 8.3 billion kernels. Nutritionally, though candy corn is almost pure sugar, its small size means it has only 3.57 calories per kernel.
While Halloween accounts for 75% of the annual candy corn production, candy corn has become diverse over the years, with makers modifying it for Valentine's Day, Christmas, and Easter. Appropriately enough, October 30 is National Candy Corn Day and it is estimated that about 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year.
An American classic, M&Ms were introduced to American GIs during WWII in 1941. Originally sold in a tube, the packaging changed to its famed brown bag in 1948. In 1950 the first "M" was printed on the candy in black, officially giving the candies their signature style. For those interested in tourist attractions, the M&M factory in Las Vegas features the infamous "Wall of Chocolate," displaying for consumption the candy in every color imaginable.
3. Snickers and other Candy Bars
With their nuts, caramel and chocolate coating, Snickers have become the #1 Halloween candy bar for the past several years. They are so popular that they have fast become the candy bar most favored by parents to "sample" at the end of a long night trick-or -treating, at a rate of 70%. Other favorite candy bars to look for in those little bags are Nestle Crunch, Milky Way, Three Musketeer, and Almond Joy
4. Hershey's Kisses
Everyone's favorite kiss, Hershey's Kisses burst onto the candy scene in 1907 and have been a force ever since, although there was a short interruption from 1942 to 1949 during WWII due to the rationing of foil. Now coming with almonds and the "Hugs" variety, it's rumored that Kisses got their name from the sound and motion that the machine makes while producing them. About 76% of households will feature bite-sized chocolate candies like Kisses during Halloween.
Kids' least favorite trick-or-treat items, according to the National Confectioners Association, are fruit and salty snacks like pretzels and chips.
Other popular Halloween candies include Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Tootsie Rolls and Pops, Smarties and Charms Blow pops, which will all make appearances at Halloween celebrations across the country this year.
A Happy (and Healthy) Halloween
With all the sugary and sweet treats haunting grocery shelves and kitchen cabinets this time of year, some of you more health-conscious parents out there might be wondering about healthy alternatives to the Hershey-based Halloween diet. While most experts agree that allowing your child to indulge on Halloween night is not likely to cause any harm (and may even get their sugar-craving out of their system for awhile), the key to surviving Halloween is moderation -- for both parents and children. Some tips and suggestions offered by KidsHealth.org include:
Be a role model for your children. If you don't want them eating their body weight in candy, model the proper way to enjoy the treats without overdoing it. Get rid of any leftovers if you feel the temptation to gorge might be too much.
Be aware of your child's candy stash and make sure it's kept where they don't have easy access to it, i.e. not their bedrooms.
Be a little lenient about their candy eating on Halloween night and discuss with your kids how the rest of the candy will be handled. Allowing them to have a say in the decision-making process will not only show that you respect the candy is theirs, but will provide an early lesson in how to integrate candy, in moderation, into a balanced diet.
Consider introducing a buyback system with your child. Buying back the candy is another way to involve your child in the decision-making process and help them earn a little money along the way.
If you would prefer to avoid the candy trap altogether, some healthier Halloween treats to fill the bowl with include:
While requiring a little extra effort, following these simple steps will ensure that you and yours have a very happy, healthy, and most importantly, safe Halloween
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National Confectioners Association
Slashfood.com October 28, 2006
Celebrations.com August 7, 2008
MSNBC.com October 31, 2006