Here in the United States, festive seasonal displays are offering all kinds of Halloween and Thanksgiving treats in a variety of sizes. This is a welcome sight after the shortages of recent years. However, if you look a little closer, the deals aren't always as sweet as they appear.
First, candy prices are up 13% since last year, which marks the largest-ever annual jump. In fact, the candy sector has delivered some of the biggest cost escalations in the grocery category lately. Confectioners say the issue is due to mounting flour and sugar prices, plus higher labor costs.
According to The Wall Street Journal, increases from sugar, flour and milk are outpacing the overall U.S. consumer inflation rate, which was up 8.2% in September 2022 versus September 2021. Many candy companies say they’re doing their part to lessen the impact of the economy’s tricks. For instance, Mars Inc. claims it’s trying to absorb costs. However, research from Datasembly found that the company's Skittles and Starbursts had the greatest price hikes, at 35% and 42% respectively, compared to 10 other popular Halloween candies.
Consumers in the Halloween aisles also might be spooked by shrinking product sizes. The Washington Post states: “A bag of dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses is now a couple of ounces smaller than before. A two-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is a tenth of an ounce lighter. And Cadbury milk chocolate bars are about 10% skimpier.” Cadbury, a popular British brand now owned by Chicago-based Mondelez International, introduced its more compact bars earlier this year at the same price point as previous bars in an effort to avoid raising prices.
Of course, when it comes to candy, shrinkflation also has a healthier spin. In 2017, Mars Wrigley, Ferrara Candy, Ferrero and Lindt joined forces to decrease calorie counts, make labels more noticeable and offer a broader range of portion sizes. According to the National Confectioners Association, 85% of chocolate and candy sold today contains 200 calories or fewer per pack, and 100% of candies now have calorie labels on the front, up from 50% in 2016. Many candymakers have also introduced lighter and zero-sugar options.
Swelling grocery prices are also inspiring consumers to rethink their Thanksgiving plans. With at-home food costs up 13% this September compared to 2021, nearly 90% of surveyed Americans say they plan to cut at least one dish from their Thanksgiving tables. Others are asking guests to contribute to a potluck or chip in on the bill. And one-quarter are skipping the holiday entirely.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that turkey farmers across the country are “watching in horror as a virulent new strain of avian influenza wipes out their flocks, killing birds practically overnight and forcing hundreds of thousands more to be euthanized to prevent further infection.” The rampant spread of the virus has already killed more than 6 million turkeys nationwide, about 14% of total U.S. production. Several estimates say consumers may end up paying 20% more per pound.
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