business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

Forget the much-hyped Red State vs. Blue State predictions for the upcoming midterm elections. A new state-by-state look at our nation’s candy preferences reveals many more stunning and divisive statistics … and to be honest, for me there were as many tricks as treats.

For example, Hot Tamales are the favorite Halloween candy in three states: Indiana, North Dakota and Virginia. Yes, those Hot Tamales, the spicy, chewy cinnamon flavored candy in the red box. Trick-or-treaters in Louisiana can expect to load up on Lemonheads, and Salt Water Taffy has resumed its No. 1 ranking in the state of Washington.

Candy corn is king in seven states, Skittles in five. And Reese’s Cups once again reign in Texas, where Lone Star residents consume more than 1,100,000 pounds of the chocolate and peanut butter confections around Halloween. Apparently, peanut allergies don’t mess with Texas.

The state-by-state breakdown is brought to us by the folks at, which sells bulk candy nationwide. The chart-makers looked at 11 years of sales data (2007-2017), focusing on the months leading up to Halloween, and also consulted with major candy manufacturers and distributors to verify their conclusions. (You can check out the map below, and if you clock on it, you’ll be taken to the interactive version.)

The list includes the top three candies per state, and the approximately number of pounds sold per season. (For the first time Hershey’s products were not ranked in their home state of Pennsylvania. Just something to chew on…)

Less surprising are the top five sellers nationwide: Skittles, M&Ms, Snickers, Reese’s Cups and Starburst, according to

Just how big is the candy market? The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that shoppers will spend $2.6 billion on Halloween candy this year, down from $2.7 billion estimate for 2017. Wow.

Competition for America’s sweet tooth has been heating up all month, with Amazon slashing candy prices for a two-day “daily deal” just as Walmart was offering free shipping on Halloween candy for two days. Online purchases make up an estimated 25% of Halloween sales.

A new survey of more than 5,000 parents from Shopkick, a leading shopping rewards app, also yielded interesting insights on the market. It found that 54% of shoppers are brand loyal, choosing their favorites rather than less expensive options.

It also found that 75% of parents who purchased Halloween candy when it hit store shelves in late summer will have to restock to make up for pre-Halloween, in-home consumption. (I can relate.)

The survey also addressed two pressing issues: dangerous nut allergies and the push for healthier alternatives. It found that 15% of parents will celebrate a nut-free Halloween, and 20% reported they are prioritizing healthy options such as fruit, pretzels, carrots, pencils and stickers over sweets.

As a parent and a person with food allergies, I believe in the middle ground on nuts and having designated, guaranteed nut-free basket for trick-or-treaters. And while I am a major proponent of healthier snack options, I agree with the nutritionists who say let the kids have candy on Halloween and focus on good nutrition the other 364 days of the year.

In the end, however, it seems possible that between the kind of absolutism that stops kids from having birthday cupcakes in school and the reported trend away from trick-or-treating and toward neighborhood Halloween parties, it may be that these issues will become less important … and the sales less consequential.

And for the record, as someone who was born and raised in Connecticut, I was taken aback that Almond Joy was the state’s favorite candy. I’ll take a Snickers any day.

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