Halloween Candy Sales Soar; Sugar Policy Remains No-Cost to Taxpayers

October 28, 2011

Shoppers won’t be scared off by a rocky economic outlook this Halloween. And their appetite for delicious candy is certain to be a treat for America’s thriving confectionery industry.

“Consumer spending for Halloween is expected to be spirited this year, with sales of $6.9 billion, up from $5.8 billion in 2010, according to a National Retail Federation survey.  Spending on candy is expected to hit $2 billion,” the National Confectioners Association reported on Sept. 28 in a daily email prepared for industry executives.

That $2 billion candy spending frenzy equates to an estimated $21.05 per customer—up from $20.29 in 2010. Such buying power is even more impressive when you consider that 2010 was one of the best Halloweens on record for candy makers, with sales jumping 3 percent from the previous year.

With so much good news it’s hard to understand why confectioners have been so sour lately on Capitol Hill. In fact, candy makers from across the country descended on Congress a few weeks ago to tell lawmakers that America’s no-cost sugar policy is harming them financially—this despite simultaneous reports of record candy sales, facility expansions, and job creation.

So what’s the truth? Are candy companies and grocery shoppers being harmed by a sugar policy that hasn’t cost taxpayers a dime since 2002 and is projected by the USDA to remain no cost through 2021?

For the answer, just do a little math.

Sugar costs represent less than 3 percent of the retail price for major Halloween candies, according to the American Sugar Alliance. So, of the $21.05 that the average U.S. consumer will spend on candy this holiday season, a paltry 62 cents will go to sugar processors to cover the cost of purchasing sugarbeets or sugarcane from growers, manufacturing the sugar, and transporting it to candy companies across the country.

Seems like a nice profit for the candy manufacturers and a sweet deal for consumers.

Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest calls it “America’s Sweet No-Cost Success Story.” In a recent op-ed for The Hill, he noted:

The sign of any successful policy is one under which all parties affected by it are able to succeed and thrive.

It is how Congress attempts to structure all pieces of legislation. Although as a former House Member, I can attest that this goal is often unrealized as unforeseen factors come into play and unintended consequences crop up.

That has not been the case with America’s sugar policy. Since the 2008 Farm Bill, you would be hard pressed to find anyone struggling with the outcome.

Combest said tales of economic woe being spun by candy lobbyists on Capitol Hill are little more than misguided attempts to, “un-level the playing field in hopes of further boosting corporate profits to the detriment of U.S. sugar farmers, poor countries, and the nation’s food security.”

Sounds like candy companies are trying to play a pretty big trick.