But first, a Halloween movie mashup to get you in the spirit:
Samira Kawash details the rise of Halloween candy:
Would you believe the earliest trick-or-treaters didn’t even expect to get candy? Back in the 1930s, when kids first started chanting “trick or treat” at the doorbell, the treat could be just about anything: nuts, coins, a small toy, a cookie or popcorn ball. Sometimes candy too, maybe a few jelly beans or a licorice stick. But it wasn’t until well into the 1950s that Americans started buying treats instead of making them, and the easiest treat to buy was candy. The candy industry also advertised heavily, and by the 1960s was offering innovative packaging and sizes like mini-bars to make it even easier to give out candy at Halloween. But if you look at candy trade discussions about holiday marketing in the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween doesn’t even get a mention.
She elaborates on another reason for the rise of branded sweets:
One of the biggest casualties of the poison treats scares of the 1970s was homemade sweets.
In the 1960s and before, it was totally fine to give out something you’d made yourself. But once people got it in their heads that maniacs were out there trying to kill their children with Halloween treats, everything homemade was suspect. After all, you didn’t know whose hands had touched that cookie and what scary ingredients might be hidden under the chocolate chips. Same for unwrapped candies and off-brand candies: If it wasn’t sealed in a recognizable, major brand factory label, then it was guilty until proven innocent. National advertised candy brands were familiar and trusted, unlike that spooky neighbor who just might be an axe murderer. It’s one of the huge successes of processed food marketing, to make us trust and feel good about the factory food, and to distrust and denigrate the homemade and the neighborly.
I think this is starting to swing back in the other direction though, at least in urban areas. Today, consumers are pretty obsessed with the artisanal and the small batch, and will pay a huge premium for candy that is nothing like Hershey or Mars. On the other hand, every year the candy that’s wrapped for Halloween treating gets more and more homogeneous, and the national brands rule.
Elsewhere, The Daily Meal dished out an infographic comparing the unhealthiness of different candies.