It’s Halloween: a chance for a little fun during these serious times for the food, beverage and agriculture industries. How the food industry is handling Halloween 2020 reflects the year to date: a supply chain working through disruption, foodservice and retail channels striving to stay relevant, and people struggling to connect and conduct a life that resembles normalcy.

  • Tricks
  • Treats
  • “Fun-sized” articles worth reading capture other industry news

“It used to be we get the kids to the candy. Now they’re trying to get the candy to the kids.”

Marcia Mogelonsky, Mintel (Adweek)

Up to the Usual Tricks

Eager to maintain seasonal sales without traditional trick-or-treating, organizations, brands and channels got creative with messaging and marketing.

  • In late September, National Confectioners Association (NCA) conducted a press blitz painting a picture of normalcy, using the hashtag #HalloweenisHappening and tweeting Harris poll data that “74% of millennial moms and young parents say that Halloween is more important than ever this year.”
  • Nation’s Restaurant News featured a slideshow of foodservice “tricks,” aka limited time offers, to get customers in stores. Our favorite: IHOP’s Mr. Mummy, a green pancake with zigzag “bandages.”
  • Krispy Kreme is offering two opportunities for free doughnuts, no strings attached: Halloween and Election Day (Food & Wine).
  • Washington Post shared an interesting marketing tactic at Burger King stores in Denmark. When patrons repeat “Cancelled Clown,” three times in front of the bathroom mirror, they are treated to a dark and scary knock on their competition’s former pitchman, Ronald McDonald. Just watch the video.
  • USDA tweeted a pest management fun fact: “Spiders like to snack on pests we find common like mosquitoes, wasps & moths. So if you find a lone spider in the corner of your cupboard or hanging out in your garden it’s best to leave them alone as they will provide add’l pest management.”

Treats, Slightly Askew

In late September, the CDC issued guidelines for holiday celebrations during the pandemic. On October 9, the agency urged Americans to “plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.” And now the candy industry is dealing with disruptions similar to many other segments of the food and beverage industry.

  • The Mayo Clinic suggested pumpkin picking and virtual costume parties in lieu of trick-or-treating.
  • Indiana University professor of pediatrics Aaron E. Carroll opined, “Kids Have Suffered Enough. Let Them Have Halloween.” We bet Dr. Carroll hands out full-sized candy bars at his house.
  • “Even though 2020 feels like a trick … we found new ways to connect safely,” posted Mars Wrigley about its Treat Town app, which simulates the Halloween experience from home. The candy giant also published a helpful guide for before, during and after trick-or-treating that reiterated “when in doubt, throw it out.”
  • While others worried about children’s safety, Center for Food Safety campaigned for Mars Wrigley to expand its worker safety policies.
  • AdWeek’s Paul Hiebert highlighted how candy brands have extended campaigns instead of just promoting Halloween.
  • Food Processing reported that candy sales remain high, despite pandemic fears.
  • Mintel’s Marcia Mogelonsky noted that fears about sharing germs have boosted sales of individually wrapped candies.
  • The Counter featured a Michael Waters piece illuminating the “subliminal messages” on your candy wrappers. Nothing creepier than treats that trick us into eating them.

Worth Reading.

Not all the conversations were that spooky this week. Here are other important, non-seasonal developments:

Chicken Sandwich Escalation

With Church’s Chicken touting heritage and Zaxby’s promising “the chicken sandwich war ain’t over yet,” both companies unveiled their latest menu items to compete for the coveted best chicken sandwich. Taking a different approach, Jack in the Box and Tyson Foods announced the “first-ever plant-based ‘unchicken’ sandwiches introduced by a quick-service restaurant.” They claim their unchicken has the taste, crunch and texture to satisfy dedicated sandwich connoisseurs … but only aficionados at select stores in California and Nevada can be the judge.

Pandemic Panic, Part II

With new surges and restrictions across the country, Progressive Grocer warned pantry stockpiling may be on the rise and grocery retailers should be prepared. Research released in October suggested more than half of Americans will stockpile in the fall due in part to increased infection rates but also because of “unrest surrounding the election.”

Burritos Have Footprints?

Chipotle debuted a sustainability tracker called Real Foodprint that “gives guests a first-of-its-kind look into the brand’s sourcing efforts and allows them to track how they can help Chipotle make an impact on the planet.” The burrito chain enlisted Science Guy Bill Nye to educate consumers on how the tracker works and research partner HowGood established five key metrics, comparing Chipotle’s sourcing standards with conventional methods. Fast Company carefully dissected the app and pointed out, “Chipotle is comparing its ingredients to those of other companies, an area it tends to be superior, rather than comparing the impact of its own beef vs. tofu or sour cream vs. none.”

Yogurt Pays

On October 27, Chobani announced that it will be increasing employees’ starting wage to $15 an hour, effective 2021. “Businesses should serve the people and communities in which they operate. Raising our base starting salary is the right thing to do and we hope other businesses, particularly food manufacturers, feel the same as we all work toward rebuilding our country,” said founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya. Food Navigator summarized Chobani’s other new perks like paid parental leave, bonuses for frontline workers and ownership stakes for full-time employees.

Dicamba Reapproved

Reuters reported on October 27 that the EPA reapproved the use of the herbicide dicamba for the next five years. The announcement comes after a court ruling this summer that blocked sales of dicamba. According to EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, new restrictions for the herbicide will be implemented that will “take care of the drift issues that we have witnessed in the past.”

Masked Advertising

The New York Times shared findings published in the journal Pediatrics that suggest videos featuring popular “kidfluencers” are targeting young children “with thinly veiled ads for sugary beverages and junk food.” Researchers from New York University reviewed 400 YouTube videos and found 90% of the foods featured in these videos were unhealthy. “The way these branded products are integrated in everyday life in these videos is pretty creative and unbelievable,” said Marie Bragg, study author.