Anyone shopping in Spar Battlefield’s store in Shrewsbury on Monday October 31, is in for a shock as they’re likely to be served by a ghost or a ghoul. That’s because you’ll find manager Marcus Burnley-Lowe and his staff dressed up in Halloween-themed costumes. They’re keen to embrace anything that adds a bit of excitement in-store and, of course, Halloween lends itself well to in-store theatre. Last year, because Halloween fell on a Saturday, they spread the theme across the weekend. But this year, with Halloween on a Monday, it’s likely they’ll just dress up on that day. Last year Marcus dressed up as Star Wars’ character Jango Fett; this year who knows what treat he’ll have in-store for his customers?

As well as getting involved by donning costumes, the store has Halloween displays backed by Spar pos material. This means you’ll find broomsticks, witches’ hats, Scream masks and lots of other scary props. The store also stocks Halloween-themed napkins and paper plates plus everything else that’s needed for a party.

"To be honest, Halloween doesn’t give us a huge sales boost but it is good in that it adds excitement and it’s a novelty for customers to see the store and us dressed up," says Marcus.

There’s no doubting Halloween’s popularity; it’s now the third biggest event on the occasions calendar after Christmas and Easter and the second biggest party night after New Year’s Eve. The grocery multiples principally US-owned Asda have been quick to cash in but there’s no reason why independent forecourts can’t do so too. In the past Asda has gone for new ’spooky foods’ such as bumpkins, ’putrid’ purple chilies and green swede. It also does a big trade in costumes and even sells Halloween outfits for pets. However, while no one expects a forecourt store to have such items, they will expect a nod to the occasion with spookily themed confectionery, cakes and biscuits.

Research by him! found that confectionery for trick or treaters was the most purchased item for Halloween, bought by 22% of respondents, followed by pumpkins (18%).

Thankfully there’s plenty of confectionery to choose from. Big self-eat hit, the Screme Egg has this year been replaced by the Cadbury Ghooost Egg, which is filled with white goo. Packs give consumers the chance to instantly win a family ticket to Alton Towers’ Scarefest if they find one of 50 hidden eggs containing a yellow yolk and winning coupon.

Also from Mondelez is the popular Cadbury Crunchy Spider, filled with green crispy bites.

Meanwhile, Mars Chocolate has brought back its limited-edition Halloween peanut M&M’s packs containing brown, green and orange chocolates. The product makes its return after a strong performance in 2015, when it was the number one Halloween pouch. It is available in a variety of formats including a 45g single, rrp 60p; a 100g treatbag, rrp £1.19; a 165g Pouch, rrp £2.09; and a 300g large pouch, rrp £3.29.

Bep Dhaliwal, trade communications manager at Mars Chocolate UK, says: "Halloween is a rapidly growing season within the confectionery sector, with sharing bags growing by 9.8% over the past five years and Halloween-specific sharing formats growing by 4% (Nielsen data). M&M’s limited-edition products are known for driving stand-out in-store and the M&M’s Halloween limited- edition peanut range and M&M’s Choco Funsize are perfect options for retailers looking to grow their sales."

To support the packs, Mars Chocolate is putting significant media spend behind M&M’s to build up anticipation around the Halloween occasion and ensure that it is front of mind for consumers. A full range of pos featuring M&M’s characters is available for retailers to ensure packs will not be missed by shoppers in-store.

Wrigley too is supporting its Halloween range (Skittles Darkside and Starburst Trick or Treat) with themed pos including dedicated cardboard units and clip strips.

Dan Newell, confections marketing manager at the firm, says: "Halloween presents retailers with a platform to increase sugar confectionery sales, with the category holding a 55% share of all confectionery sales during the Halloween period, compared to 19% average share across the rest of the year (Nielsen data). Last year Wrigley’s confectionery sales grew by 25% in total market across the Halloween season, supported by the limited-edition launches."

Those limited-edition launches include Skittles Darkside, which is back for a second year. It contains five spooky flavours (Forbidden Fruit, Midnight Lime, Blood Orange, Pomegranate and Dark Berry) in dark indigo hanging pouches, rrp £1.28.

Starburst is returning with its Trick or Treat limited-edition pack in a handy Tear and Scare pouch. Newell says consumers will experience a "tense surprise" when they taste one of the sweet or sour scare-edition flavours, which include apple, orange and raspberry.

Skittles Fruits Funsize complements the range and is the perfect size to hand out to trick or treaters. It is available in multipacks of 11 x 18g bags, with an rrp of £1.39.

Newell says: "Halloween is an ideal holiday season for retailers to capitalise on, with consumers looking to purchase themed products to celebrate the scary event. Our seasonal range is available for three months in various convenient pack formats, which suit a range of Halloween activities. Retailers should stock up on special confectionery packs to complete their Halloween ranges and add to the theatre in-store."

Mark Roberts, trade marketing manager at Perfetti Van Melle, agrees, saying that creating engaging in-store theatre will help drive sales during the Halloween period. He adds: "In the weeks leading up to October 31, it is important for retailers to carefully consider the visibility of confectionery displays, as rather than being a last-minute decision made in store, confectionery will move to front of mind for consumers."

Roberts says that unlike Christmas and Easter, which can be dominated by chocolate, at Halloween, trick or treat gifts traditionally consist of sugar confectionery. "The category lends itself to the occasion, with formats that are playful and easy to share. Theming the fixture and providing products that are appropriate to the season will drive sales; while offering eye-catching party pieces can command a much higher price point. Adding fun to the fixture, such as with eye-catching shelf-wobblers, will encourage more shoppers to browse the range on offer and drive incremental sales by encouraging them to stock up on a large of amount of low-cost items for party bags and trick or treat prizes."

Perfetti Van Melle offers an extensive range of Halloween products to target occasion shoppers, as well as a selection of pos for retailers to drive excitement in-store. Its Mix of Minis contains 150% more pieces than an average confectionery bag, with Chupa Chups, Fruitella and Mentos offering a great alternative to chocolate. Meanwhile, the Chupa Chups Halloween bag contains 14 lollipops in assorted flavours while the Fruitella Spooky Family bag builds on the success of the Fruitella Hotel Transylvania bag from last year. It contains three gruesome flavours: blackcurrant & strawberry, cola & lemon and orange & banana. Then there’s Fruitella Favourites Halloween Mix; a bag of chews, sticks and bars.

Says Roberts: "Our all-year-round range from Fruitella is a great option for a small giveaway to the hordes of trick or treaters that will be darkening doorways this Halloween. Suitable for the whole family, our Fruitella bags are growing ahead of the total bags market at 6% and featured within the top 25 bags in Halloween 2015 (IRI). On top of this, with 71% of consumers more likely to buy price-marked packs as they are perceived to represent better value, we offer £1 price-marked bags across our entire Fruitella portfolio."

Other lines from Perfetti Van Melle include the new Chupa Chups Spooky Pizza, covered in snakes and spiders, and available in impactful shelf-ready packaging as well as free standing display units for in-store theatre and engagement. And Chupa Chups Monstrous Pop is a fruit-flavoured lollipop containing a sherbet filling. It’s available in three new flavours: blueberry-lemon, cola-lemon, and strawberry-lemon.

Screme team

Other impulse items that are good to stock are cakes and biscuits. Burton’s Biscuit Company is the leading manufacturer of biscuits for Halloween, with the top four products in the market (Nielsen data). This year’s line-up includes Cadbury Screme Egg biscuits, available in a new eight-pack, which has been introduced following the successful launch of an eight-pack for Cadbury Creme Egg Biscuits at Easter 2016. Cadbury Animals Halloweenies are a spooky twist on Cadbury Animals featuring Halloween-themed biscuits in the shape of bats, spiders and other creepy crawlies. And Cadbury Mini Fingers come in packs with a ’spine-tingling’ design. Then there’s Cadbury Trick or Treat Biscuits containing 15 bags of Cadbury Mini Fingers, Mini Animals and Mini Dino’s, all in a handy box ideal for trick or treating.

David Costello, head of category and shopper management at Burton’s Biscuit Company, says: "Research has shown that over two-thirds of shoppers spend an average of £1 per pack on Halloween products, making low-entry price points really important. With the Cadbury Biscuits Halloween line-up we’re meeting this need, bringing incremental shoppers to seasonal sweet biscuits, and working with retailers to drive shoppers to the fixture ahead of the Christmas period."

Meanwhile, Premier Foods continues to have the top five performing products within the Halloween cake category (IRI data). Its Mr Kipling Fiendish Fancies is currently the number one performing cake at Halloween, with sales worth £1m in 2015.

Karmel Maletta, innovation controller at Premier Foods, says shoppers are willing to pay more for brands they know and trust such as Mr Kipling and Cadbury Cakes. She recommends retailers maximise sales by stocking the top four performing ambient cakes in the Halloween category: Mr Kipling Fiendish Fancies; Cadbury Mini Rolls Halloween 18-Pack; Mr Kipling Chocolate & Slime Slices; and Mr Kipling Terror Toffee whirls. You might also like to try the new Cadbury Pumpkin Patch cakes, which contain orange cream and are decorated with a seasonal Halloween chocolate decoration.

Finally, consumers will need something to wash all these treats down with.

AG Barr’s head of marketing, Adrian Troy, says shoppers will be looking to stock up on take-home packs of soft drinks favourites, as well as smaller pack formats to hand out to trick or treaters. "AG Barr has a range of products that perfectly fit both of these opportunities with the well-loved Barr range including Irn Bru offering unique, fun and exciting flavours at great value."

With more adults using Halloween as an excuse for a party, it’s important to cater for them too. If you’ve an off licence, then Hobgoblin ale is a good product to push, but according to Office for National Statistics data, one in five adults now choose not to consume alcohol. Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) says that sharing bottles such as 1.75ltr PETs and four x 330ml multipacks are great for social gatherings, so stocking shelves with a variety of soft drinks in these formats can help maximise sales.

Products such as blood orange juice may also be popular; and there’s the aptly named Monster Energy drink. CCEP reports that it continues to perform well, and has grown by 10.8% over the past year (Nielsen data). Tapping into demand for lower-calorie drinks, Monster is available in three no-calorie varieties. Monster Energy Ultra White, with its citrus flavour. leads the line-up. It is joined by Ultra Sunrise, which brings a citrus and orange twist with a dry flavour; and Ultra Red, which combines the Monster Energy blend with a drink that’s refreshing, light and crisp.

Cheeky cheeses

There’s not usually a big Halloween presence in chillers, except perhaps for some pumpkin soup. So, if you want to inject some fun into your fridges, you might want to stock Mini Babybel in its eerie Halloween-themed packaging. Available throughout October, the recognisable nets are full of cheeky Halloween characters including a pumpkin, a devilish devil and a freaky Frankenstein.
Head of insight and planning at Bel UK, Chloé Féminier, says the themed mini cheeses can add interest and variety to lunchboxes and are also great for handing out to trick or treaters or serving at Halloween parties. She reckons they are a great alternative to sweets and sugary snacks.
The special editions come in three different formats: nets of six (Original, Light, Cheddar and Gouda); a variety pack of nine (three Original, three Cheddar, three Gouda); and a net of 12 (Original and Light).