Spooked by the high price of Halloween candy? There's not much relief in sight.
For the second year in a row, U.S. shoppers are seeing double-digit inflation in the candy aisle. Candy and gum prices are up an average of 13% this month compared to last October, more than double the 6% increase in all grocery prices, according to Datasembly, a retail price tracker. That's on top of a 14% increase in candy and gum prices in October 2022.
"The price of candy has gotten to be outrageous," said Jessica Weathers, a small business owner in Shiloh, Illinois. "It doesn't make sense to me to spend $100 on candy."
Weathers said she usually buys plenty of candy for trick-or-treaters and events at school and church. But this year, she only bought two bags and plans to turn off her porch light on Halloween when she runs out.
Other consumers are changing what they buy. Numerator, a market research firm, said its surveys show about one-third of U.S. consumers plan to trade down to value or store brands when buying candy for trick-or-treaters this year.
Weather is the main culprit for the higher prices. Cocoa prices are trading at 44-year highs after heavy rains in West Africa caused limited production in the season that began last fall. Now, El Nino conditions are making the region drier and are likely to linger well into the spring.
"There may be no price relief in sight, at least through the first half of 2024," said Dan Sadler, principal of client insights for Circana, a market research firm.
Kelly Goughary, a senior research analyst with Gro Intelligence, an agricultural analytics firm, said Ivory Coast — which produces around 40% of the world's cocoa — is already showing the signs of one of its worst droughts since 2003.
Meanwhile, global sugar prices are at 12-year highs, Goughary said. India, the world's second-largest sugar producer after Brazil, recently banned sugar exports for the first time in seven years after monsoon rains hurt the upcoming harvest. Thailand's output is also down.
Those costs, combined with increases for labor, packaging, and ingredients like peanuts, are pushing up prices for all kinds of candy.
Discount grocer Aldi is advertising a 250-piece variety pack of Mars Inc. chocolate bars — including Milky Way, Twix and Snickers — for $24.98. Two years ago, the same package was advertised at $19.54.
Hershey Co. — which has raised its prices by 7% or more in each of the last seven quarters —acknowledged this week that higher prices are taking a toll on demand. Hershey's North American confectionary sales volumes fell 1% in the July-September period.
"We know that value and affordability continue to be top-of-the-line for consumers as budgets are stretched," Hershey's President and CEO Michele Buck said Thursday on a conference call with investors.
Buck said Hershey is trying to meet consumers' needs with offerings in value stores and pack sizes at various price points.