We love getting swept up in the festivities of Halloween. From decorating to dressing up, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Perhaps our favorite part is the candy, which wouldn’t even be possible without farmers. Horrors! Here’s some trivia about Halloween candy, as well as a glimpse at how some top Kansas crops contribute to this be-ghoul-ing treat.
Halloween wasn’t always associated with candy. The holiday was commonly considered a harvest festival. In the 1930s and 1940s, the idea of trick-or-treating started to come onto the scene, but a lot of the treats were homemade baked goods. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the holiday started to transform into a candy-centric celebration. There were some exceptions, of course. Cereal was sometimes handed out as a treat.
In Kansas, the “trick” aspect of Halloween was quite unruly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Fed up with the destruction, Hiawatha hosted a costume parade to help curtail the naughtiness in 1915. The effort was a resounding success with a local newspaper reporting: "There was no destroying of property and the marshals had the lonesomest Hallowe'en they have ever had."
Halloween Candy Sales
Today, Americans love Halloween candy! So, how much chocolate do we buy at Halloween? It’s the biggest holiday for chocolate sales in the U.S. with about 90 million pounds of cocoa-licious-ness sold. (Valentine’s Day is the second-most-popular chocolate holiday with about 58 million pounds sold.)
More than 65% of Americans typically plan to hand out candy for Halloween each year. In 2022, candy sales alone are expected to be more than $3 billion.
Americans eat an average of about 12 pounds of chocolate per year, so there’s a good chance a lot of that is happening during October!
About 70% of cocoa, the processed form of cacao, comes from farms in West Africa. There are approximately 1.5 million cocoa farms there, many of which are small, family-owned farms averaging a little under 10 acres.
One cacao tree produces about 2,500 beans and it takes about 400 beans to make one pound of chocolate, which means one tree can produce a little over six pounds of chocolate.
Candy Corn Trivia
A sure sign of Halloween is the appearance of this waxy, tricolor confection in grocery and drug stores. Even if you’re not a fan, you have to agree that candy corn is a fall staple. But these sweet nuggets weren’t originally made for Halloween.
Candy historians (it’s a thing!) estimate candy corn came on the scene in the 1880s. There was a trend at the time to make sweets that looked like other foods such as pumpkins and turnips. Candy corn was designed to look like chicken feed. In fact, in 1898, the Goelitz Candy Company popularized the confection, calling it Chicken Feed. It wasn’t until World War I that the name Candy Corn came about.
The Most Popular Candy in Kansas
Nope, it’s not candy corn. Reese’s Cups are the top-selling candy in Kansas with more than 215,000 pounds sold here. Kansas is right on par with the rest of the country as Reese’s tops the list nationwide. Our second favorite — M&Ms (ranked third in the country) — came in at more than 210,000 pounds sold. Interestingly, the third spot for Kansas switched from sweet to sour and from chocolate to fruit with Sour Patch Kids, ranked sixth nationally, at more than 191,000 pounds sold.
Behind the scenes, Kansas is linked to candy production thanks to farmers who produce some top crops necessary to satisfy our sweet teeth.
Corn and Candy
Corn contributes to candy in two main forms: corn starch and corn syrup. Cornstarch is an unsung hero of candy production. You’ve probably used it when baking or making gravy, but it’s also used to help thicken or smooth textures in candy. A light coating of cornstarch can also prevent hard candies or gummy candies from sticking together.
Although lots of candy features sugar, corn syrup is also used to help sweeten some of your favorite treats. It’s made from cornstarch and helps prevent the formation of sugar crystals, so it can give certain candies a smoother texture than regular sugar. High fructose corn syrup, a processed form of regular corn syrup, is also used as a sweetener.
Corn products can be found in our state’s second-favorite candy — M&M’s — as well as Snickers, Butterfinger, Almond Joy, 100 Grand, Junior Mints, York Peppermint Patties, Dots, Whoppers, Peeps, licorice, jelly beans, gumdrops and more.
In 2021, Kansas produced more than 744 million bushels of corn.
Soy in Halloween Candy
Soy has a couple neat uses when it comes to some of our favorite treats. If you’ve ever tried melting and tempering chocolate, you know it can be tricky to get it just right. Soy lecithin is often used in chocolate making because it helps the cocoa, milk and sugar bind together, making it easier to get the proper consistency. Soy lecithin is also used in chewing gum to increase its shelf life and prevent it from sticking to the wrapper. Soybean oil as a standalone or as part of vegetable oil can be used in candy, too. Candy companies like Mars are even using soy in their candy wrappers to help make them biodegradable.
Soy products can be found in our state’s favorite candy — Reese’s Cups — as well as Hershey bars, Snickers, Almond Joy, Butterfinger, Starburst, M&M’s, Junior Mints, York Peppermint Patties, Whoppers and more.
In 2021, Kansas produced more than 190 million bushels of soybeans.
Wheat in Halloween Candy
Is wheat used in candy? It sure is! Gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, is another binding agent like cornstarch and soy lecithin that can help give candy the right texture. In this case, wheat helps provide chewiness.
Wheat can be found in various gummy, fruit chew and licorice candies, as well as Twizzlers, Milky Way bars, Almond Joy and Whoppers.
In 2021, Kansas produced over 281 million bushels of wheat.
Cotton in Candy
We’re not talking about cotton candy here, but cottonseed oil, a byproduct of cotton, is used in some candies as a source of fat. Cottonseed oil is made from removing the hull and soaking the seed to extract the oil.
Cottonseed oil can be found in Brachs Maple Nut Goodies and Almond Joy.
In 2021, Kansas produced more than 320,000 bales of cotton.
Halloween Candy and Animal Ag
Animal agriculture plays a part in candy production, too. Of course, dairy is a star in chocolate. Both milk and white chocolate varieties have milk, so you can thank dairy farmers for some of your favorite confections. Some candies incorporate lactose (a sugar found in milk) and sweetened condensed milk.
Gelatin, which comes from collagen from animals, helps give jelly and gummy candies their distinct, chewy consistency. Using byproducts in this way helps ensure nothing goes to waste in animal agriculture. (In fact, about 35% of a cow is used for non-meat purposes.)
Eggs are also an ingredient in some candies.
Various animal byproducts can be found in our favorites (Reese’s Cups and M&M’s) as well as Hershey bars, Spree, Snickers, Almond Joy, York Peppermint Patties, Werther’s Originals, Tolberone, Starburst, gummy bears, candy corn and lollipops.
In 2021, Kansas dairy farmers produced more than 4 billion pounds of milk and ranchers raised more than 6 million cattle.
Many Kansas grains like wheat, corn, soy and sorghum can help feed animals that contribute to candy, so they’re doing double duty.
As you savor some Halloween sweets this year, we hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on all the farmers who worked behind the scenes to fill our trick-or-treat bags.