The COVID-19 pandemic has been keeping consumers in – or close to – the home for most of the year. Now, with weeks until Halloween — one of the biggest sales drivers for the chocolate, candy, gum and mints industry — many consumers are preparing for scaled-back festivities. This comes as continuing discomfort with public spaces is keeping a third of Americans (33%) mostly at home.
In response, candy and chocolate makers will need to account for this reality. It is a reversal of years of growth in out-of-home channels and calls for creativity and agility.
Connecting with “cooped-up” consumers
Lockdown restrictions limiting in-person interaction has seen consumers migrate to online channels to find new ways for human connection from the comfort of their home. Well before the pandemic, social media and communications platforms were an inextricable part of daily life. The crisis has seen this trend become even more entrenched, with many people shifting to digital channels for the first time. The challenge for brands is to create engaging and immersive experiences for consumers — not just ones they choose because they are unable or unwilling to leave their homes.
Many are doing so already. For instance, Jelly Belly is planning to capitalize on people turning to video conferencing platforms to entertain themselves by encouraging them to use the brand’s BeanBoozled Flaming Five Challenge, a “devilish” game of online Russian roulette with spicy-flavored candies.
Mars Wrigley is going one step further by taking the Halloween experience directly into the home. The company pivoted quickly to enable “fans” of Halloween to enjoy some of the traditions and celebrations of the season with the creation of Treat Town. Families can sign up via the app or website, creating spooky monster avatars for children, and digitally invite neighbors to join in. The adults can buy “candy credits” to send to trick-or-treaters, which they can redeem for real candy from retailers both in-store and online. It’s a creative way to engage with consumers and share sweet treats while social distancing rules are in place.
For families looking for a more traditional trick-or-treating experience close to home, Hershey has responded by launching a website that maps out how to trick or treat safely in every county in the United States. People are prompted to hover over their county, which is color-coded to display the Covid-19 risk level in that area.
Green represents the lowest risk for trick-or-treating and red represents the highest risk. Families can then explore the website that is packed with recommendations for each color, for instance, in “yellow” areas, Hershey suggests a decorate-your-own spooky face mask.
Look to the future
The pandemic has created an opportunity for companies to attract and engage with consumers in innovative new ways. We can expect to see significant shifts in the shopping calendar. This is the time to focus on the possibilities the future holds.