Halloween is a key date in the calendar for manufacturers across the chocolate, confectionery and bakery category.
However, much like their Christmas counterparts, limited edition Halloween products need to stand out and embrace the trends that consumers and retailers care about in order to maximise sales.
To reflect on the trends that have dominated these categories in advance of Halloween, confectionery and bakery manufacturers have shared their insights with Food Manufacture.
Experimentation is key
In the build up to the 2023 Halloween season, flavour experts at olam food ingredients (ofi’s) highlighted the top trends within the chocolate, confectionery and bakery category. As part of this analysis, the ofi experts also noted the increasingly important role of experimentation and embracing new combinations.
The four top trends identified – autumnal flavour pairings (such as pumpkin-spice), plant-based and alternative confectionery, seasonal home baking and novelty formats – are all a break from the traditional and rely on bringing “consumers more exciting and personalised creations”.
“As Halloween grows in popularity around the globe, we’re seeing product development teams moving beyond traditional confectionery and candy,” explained Naveen Pessani, technical category manager for chocolate and confectionery at ofi.
“From bringing a fun seasonal twist to better-for-you product lines to adding new variations to family favourite treats, Halloween is an opportunity to experiment with new flavours and switch up existing formats to surprise and delight customers.”
Samantha Rain, development chef at food ingredients distribution company Henley Bridge, echoed the importance of experimentation, adding that pumpkin spice, toffee apple and liquorice had been the most popular flavours this year.
“Halloween is a time we can get creative and be a little more fun with our creations,” said Rain.
“Turning truffles into spiders for a creepy finish and making ghoulish looking treats using natural ingredients for example carbon black cocoa powder in a chocolate fondant so it oozes black when cut into it.”
Jennifer Zhou, global director of flavours product marketing at ADM, also emphasised how existing products can be uplifted for the season.
“Many brands are leaning on familiar flavours and reframing them within a ‘scary’ context for exciting and relatable consumer experiences,” Zhou said.
ADM noted pumpkin, apple and caramel flavours in its recent trend report, which Zhou said highlights that “consumers are leaning into luxe self-expression and authentic sensations”.
She continued: “Striking, darker colours are playing with the depth of chocolate, as well as grape and elderberry, with the latter breaking boundaries of the typical tastes of the season. Cherry, raspberry and blackcurrent can evoke a perception of blood. Sour and funky fermented notes are gaining popularity, and more savoury flavours like black garlic mayo are coming to the fore.”
Halloween is a particularly important time of year for the doughnut category, and UK-based manufacturers Krispy Kreme and Project D look to launch new products that tie in with the spooky holiday.
Emma Colquhoun, chief marketing and digital officer at Krispy Kreme UK and Ireland, explained that “limited edition offerings” are an important part of providing consumers with a “little bit of indulgence” during one of the brand’s biggest trading moments of the year.
“These are all about embracing the Halloween spirit by bringing in fun designs and delightful flavours that evoke the essence of autumn,” Colquhoun added.
“Think of comforting tastes like pumpkin, apple, citrus, and of course, chocolate, as well as cosy spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.”
Looking at this year in particular, Colquhoun explained that Krispy Kreme has developed a pumpkin-shaped doughnut that's toffee-flavoured, while placing an apple-twist on its original glazed doughnut.
She continued: “As a market leading brand that's all about sharing joy, it's important for us to be constantly offering customers unique new flavours that align perfectly with the season. We want them to think of Krispy Kreme not just as a delicious treat, but an integral part of those special moments like Halloween that make life more joyful.”
Meanwhile, Max Poynton, co-founder and marketing director at UK-wide doughnut maker Project D, said that the brand is “constantly reviewing and testing new flavours” to ensure its products are just right for the season.
“Over the last years we have seen a change in the popularity of milk and dark chocolate flavours and seen a lot more interest in white chocolate and fruit-based fillings,” added Poynton.
“With this, we have carefully curated our Halloween-themed flavours to bring an extra layer of excitement to your spooky season. Our selection of flavours, such as Blueberry Boo and Bat out of Hell-oween are a strong mix of flavour, creativity and childhood nostalgia.
“Each flavour has been meticulously crafted to put together a unique and memorable taste experience for our customers.”