With chocolate bunnies, cream-filled eggs and marshmallow chicks, it’s no wonder Easter is the second largest candy holiday of the year behind Halloween.
By the time Sunday, April 20, arrives, the National Confectioners Association estimates Americans will have spent more than $2.26 billion on candy for the spring holiday.
Sweet tidbits about your favorite Easter candies
Family traditions » 87 percent of Americans buy or create an Easter basket for their children.
Candy from babies » 80.5 percent of parents take candy from their children’s Easter stash.
Ears first » There’s no wrong way to eat a chocolate Easter bunny, but 88.7 percent of people eat the ears first.
Red rules » Cherry is the most popular jelly bean flavor, a favorite of nearly 24 percent of candy eaters.
Speedy delivery » In 1953, it took 27 hours to create one Marshmallow Peep. Today, it takes six minutes.
Peeps all year » On May 1, Just Born, which manufactures Peeps, will launch a bite-size version of the marshmallow candy. It will come in three flavors: strawberry creme, chocolate creme and sour watermelon.
Tall order » If all the Cadbury Crème Eggs made in a year were stacked on top of each other, the pile would be 10 times higher than Mount Everest.
Sources: National Confectioners Association, Just Born and Cadbury
"That’s 4 percent higher than last year," said Susan Whitesides, the trade organization’s vice president of communications, during a recent telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
Easter candy sales usually increase 1 percent to 3 percent each year, she said. It will be higher in 2014, because the holiday comes three weeks later than in 2013, when Easter was the last day of March.
More days between Feb. 15 — when Easter merchandising begins — and the Sunday holiday means more time for consumers to buy the holiday candy they crave, she said.
Another reason for increased Easter candy sales is the growing selection, Whitesides said. Well-known candies now come in special Easter shapes and packaging — think Snickers eggs, Starburst jelly beans and M&Ms in pastel colors.
And everyone loves something new, said Marsha Gilford, spokeswoman for Smith’s Food and Drug Stores in Utah.
"Customers want a to be delighted, to find something that is different and exciting that they can bring to the party," she said. "Our culture is one that wants to see new products and have variety. Shopping is enjoyable and fun when there’s variety."
And few states enjoy candy more than Utah, Gilford said. "Utah is one of the top markets in the country for candy sales throughout the year."
No surprise there. Utah has some of the largest families in the nation and the lowest median age — in other words, Utah parents have a lot of Easter baskets to fill.
A favorite basket offering among many Utahns isn’t the name-brand candies, but the decorative sugar eggs — with panoramic scenes of tiny chicks and bunnies inside — made by Kencraft in American Fork.
"They give some nostalgia to Easter, something your grandparents would have had," said Keller McCormick, the company’s sales and marketing director.
Kencraft makes four styles of these display eggs, ranging from a mini 1-inch size that retails for about $2 to a large 5-inch-tall egg that retails for $10. McCormick said the company expects to have about $250,000 in sugar egg sales in 2014.
Part of the fun of an Easter basket is getting Peeps, cream-filled Cadbury eggs and other candies that just aren’t available the rest of the year.
But as companies try to expand their sales reach, the holiday candy lines have started to blur.
Last week, Just Born, the company that manufactures Peeps, said it will launch a bite-size version of the marshmallow candy on May 1. It will be available year-round in three flavors: strawberry creme, chocolate creme and sour watermelon.
Michael Arbuckle, grocery sales director for Harmons Grocery Store, isn’t surprised. When customers find something they like, they want to enjoy it more than once a year, he said.
For Harmons customers, that item happens to be Cadbury’s individually wrapped cream egg minis. These bite-size milk chocolate treats, with a soft cream center, are one of Harmons’ top 10 sales items for the year — not just Easter — holding a spot next to soda pop and chips, said Arbuckle.
Harmons will order an entire truckload in the coming days, which will keep the Utah chain in full supply through the fall.
"And when they’re gone in September," he said, "we’ll get 20 or 30 calls about when they’ll be back on the shelves."
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