Thinking outside the bag: Local candymakers put creativity, gift appeal over trick-or-treat potential

The latest version of an annual survey from the National Retail Federation suggested 95 percent of American consumers planned to buy candy this Halloween, spending an estimated $2.6 billion on sweet treats.

Sales from smaller candy producers contribute to that total, but multiple Missouri-based confectioners said they’re not necessarily vying with mass producers like Mars and Nestle for room in trick-or-treaters’ Halloween bags.

“We have no interest in competing with them,” said Brian Pelletier, CEO of Kakao Chocolate, which makes small-batch candy in the St. Louis area. “We’re doing something that’s a lot different.”

Unlike bigger candy companies that focus on mass production of Halloween treats, craft confectioners can more easily experiment with different designs and decorations.

This year, Kakao is offering molded truffles made to look like eyeballs, rounded and painted with cocoa powder and accented with fruit gel.

The Candy Factory in Columbia is selling lollipops that look like skulls and small chocolates shaped like mice, among other holiday-themed candies.

Producers of small-batch candy can also focus more on fresh ingredients, according to Pelletier, while mass producers use additives to extend the shelf life of their products.

“A lot of our stuff has to be fresh,” Pelletier said.

Smaller candy producers target different customers than mass producers do during the Halloween season, said Amy Atkinson, co-owner of the Candy Factory.

The Candy Factory targets different customers than big candy producers do during the Halloween season, owner Amy Atkinson said. | Yanran Huang/Missouri Business Alert

“We do not feel like we are in competition with the big companies that make your typical Halloween candy that’s passed out to trick-or-treaters, because we don’t make anything like that,” Atkinson said. “Our customers would usually buy (candy) to give as a gift.”

Some Missouri candymakers aren’t selling any holiday-specific products this Halloween. Askinosie Chocolate, a Springfield-based chocolate maker with distribution across the U.S., is one of them.

Lawren Askinosie, chief marketing officer for Askinsosie Chocolate, said there isn’t much financial incentive for the company to create special products for the holiday.

“The Halloween season just really isn’t something that we’ve been able to really generate a lot of revenues from,” she said.

According to Pelletier, Halloween contributes less than 10 percent to Kakao’s annual sales, but it has other benefits.

“It’s huge for creativity,” he said, “so it is getting bigger for us.”

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