Too Much Of Ghouls, Goblins, Milky Ways and Beach Boys

One thing you can fairly say about our free-enterprise system is that there seems to be no such thing as overdoing a good thing.

The Beach Boys’ “long-awaited” (since 1967 or so) masterpiece, “Smile,” finally will be released tomorrow as a two CD set for $23.50. If that’s not enough to fulfill your longing for such innovations as “Psychodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into a Piano,” you can shell out $136.37 on Amazon for the box set, which includes five CDs, two LPs, two 7-inch singles, a 60-page book with liner notes by a bevy of participants, scads of photos and much, much more.

Then, speaking of saccharine excesses, there’s Halloween.

You already know from these pages, of course, that Kraft has mounted an aggressive campaign for Jell-O Halloween Brain Mold and Oreos with orange fillings, M&M’s rule in online chatter; Mike’s Hard Lemonade helps customers zombify themselves in virtual space as well as reality and that the National Retail Federation seems to think this will be the best holiday in the decade since it has been surveying members about their bottom-line expectations.

But wait. There’s more.

Let’s start with this one: 90% of parents admit to sneaking goodies from their kids' Halloween trick-or-treat bags. That’s from the National Confectioner's Association's “Fun Facts about Halloween.” And I have a feeling I’m not alone out here in also sneaking sweets from the bag of goodies intended for the neighbors’ kids.

Of course, marketers have become very accommodating over the years, packaging their treats in smaller sizes, which means I’m not really consuming that many calories when I snatch a teensy Mars Milky Way bar nestled peacefully next to that Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in that massive bag of mixed chocolate delights thoughtfully compiled by Costco, right?

Well, not according to researchers from the University of Alberta and University of British Columbia. In a study of hundreds of fellow chocoholics-in-the-making over three years, they found that “treats packaged in Halloween-sized mini-portions trick people into eating far more chocolate and candy than they otherwise would,” according to Andrea Sands in the Vancouver Sun.

In fact, participants in Jennifer Argo and Katherine White's study who were worried about their weight or appearance consumed even more of the sugary snacks, Argo tells Sands yesterday. “Often they’re dieters or restrained eaters, and they ate the most,” Argo says. “So the people for whom these packages are often targeted -- like the 100-calorie packs -- are actually eating the most.”

I daresay that Irene Rubaum-Keller, a psychotherapist and author of the book Foodaholic, probably has the best advice I’ve seen on the matter: “If you get trick-or-treaters and want to enjoy the evening, get candy that you don't like,” she writes in a Huffington Post blog. “If I get anything chocolate, I'm setting myself up for failure because I know I will be eating a fair amount of it.”

And learn to ignore the taunts of your own kids. When she saw I was dispensing packages of pretzels a few years ago, my grown daughter said, “Oh, you’ve turned into one of those parents, eh?”

Not to worry, ye marketers of overindulgence. Those parents are losing the battle big time.

“Americans are planning to spend more than ever before this Halloween season, with costumes, candy and party-related purchases topping the list,” writes Ilya Leybovich in a roundup of stats from various sources for IMT (Industry Market Trends). That reportedly includes 68.6% of all Americans -- up from 63.8% in 2010 -- and the highest number in nine years. And if just you’re talking kids, 93% of the 41 million junior consumers aged 5 to 14 plan to go trick-or-treating this year.

You’d think that with all that candy being consumed, restaurants would be hurting tonight but that’s not the case. A fifth of Americans -– and a third of people 18 through 34 -- will order takeout or delivery on Halloween, according to National Restaurant Association as reported in the Los Angeles Times’ “Money & Company” blog. And a quarter of younger adults will go out to a restaurant or bar to celebrate. Restaurateurs are particularly enthralled that the holiday falls on Monday this year, which is typically their slowest day of the week –- and ours, here at Top of the News.

Tags: holiday
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