) --Halloween may be a celebration of all things spooky, but it's the sweetest time of year for candy companies. The majority of trick-or-treaters will be filling their bags with candy bars made by
(HSY - Get Report)
But small candy makers have found ways to get in on the action by building a year-round market for their products. The key is to fill a specialized niche that appeals to a specific sweet-toothed consumer.
Overall, Halloween candy represents more than $2 billion in retail sales, making it a crucial sales period. But the candy industry overall has been holding up well all year.
"Confectionery sales in the U.S. have increased almost 3% in the past year, very normal sales growth for the industry," says Susan Whiteside of the National Confectioners Association. "This is probably because candy and chocolate are the ultimate affordable luxuries, a little piece of happiness for less than a dollar."
The fact that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year should also mean an uptick in sales compared to last year. "More people will be home to give candy to trick-or-treaters. More community centers and commercial operations will host gatherings during daylight hours and more adults will celebrate with nighttime parties," says Whiteside.
The National Confectioners Association estimates that two-thirds of its members are small businesses. How are they staking a claim to part of that $2 billion pie?