How Snickers maker Mars is preparing for Halloween and trick-or-treating

Snickers and Mars candy bars, manufactured by Mars Inc., are on display.

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Tim LeBel is president of sales for Mars Wrigley for eleven months of the year. But for the month of October, he gets a new title: Chief Halloween Officer.

For decades, the fall holidays have been the biggest day of the year for candy makers. In recent years, Halloween has also become a three-month season for Mars and its competitors HersheyFerrero and Mondelezand the retailers who stock their candy.

The National Retail Association predicted Consumers will spend $3.6 billion on Halloween candy this year, up from $3.1 billion last year, even as many shoppers are spending less elsewhere.

“We know that during difficult economic times, consumers are especially interested in enjoying the simple things in life … like Halloween,” Hershey CEO Michele Buck told investors on the company’s quarterly earnings call in July.

Unlike Hershey, family-owned Mars doesn’t release financial results, but reported annual revenue of nearly $45 billion in 2021. While Mars is best known for its confectionery portfolio, which includes M&M’s, Snickers, Three Musketeers and Twix, Mars also makes ice cream. chewing gum and pet food.

With so much at stake for Halloween, Mars begins planning for the holiday two years in advance. LeBel said he sits down with key retailers to discuss trends in taste, packaging and sustainability.

“A lot of these things take two years to develop and implement to bring to market,” LeBel told CNBC. “The things we looked at in 2021, you will see this year in 2023.”

Tim LeBel, Mars Wrigley sales president.

Source: Mars Wrigley

This is phase one of the planning. The next phase takes place in the three weeks of November after the last Halloween. Mars is sitting down with retailers again, this time for a postmortem on its candy’s performance.

“What items have we not made enough of? “What items might be out of trend?” LeBel said.

This year Mars has a few tricks up its sleeve, like Skittles Shriekers. Each bag contains classic Skittles with a few tart skittles that look just like the rest of the bag.

The company also relies on online shopping. Last year, about a third of consumers purchased Halloween items online. This year, Mars teamed up with digital supermarket Gopuff to make sure everyone has enough candy to pass out on Halloween. Consumers who are running low can visit and receive a free replacement supply of Mars Candy in less than an hour at participating locations, while supplies last.

However, Mars’ Halloween plans always include the classics, like Snickers bars, which are the second best-selling Halloween candy after Hershey’s Reese’s cups. According to the company, three Mars variety bags made it into the top 10 most popular ranges.

The retailers’ findings could prompt Mars to change its plans for the next Halloween season, which begins just nine months later, before temperatures cool and pumpkin spice lattes return to zero Starbucks’ Menu.

“[Retailers] We recognize that the exhibition of our portfolio from August to October captures multiple consumer occasions,” said LeBel.

These moments include picking up a box of candy while back-to-school shopping, snacking on scary movie nights, and the all-important trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Still, according to LeBel, 48% of Halloween candy sales occur in the last week of October. These last-minute buyers mean candy manufacturers and retailers must be ready to meet this demand.

All of Mars’ planning paid off this year. The company exceeded its production goals for this Halloween season.

“In fact, I still have some in our warehouses, ready to ship,” LeBel said.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the link to Mars’ collaboration with Gopuff.

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