Halloween Good For Wyoming Candymakers, But Not As Sweet As Christmas

While Halloween is the biggest day for candy sales nationwide, thats not the case for Wyomings own candymakers. Cowtown Candy in Cody say Christmas and Thanksgiving are bigger.

Renée Jean

November 01, 20227 min read

Caramel apples

By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is the No. 1 choice for those with a sweet tooth, craved by candy lovers across the nation and Wyoming.

Wyoming’s second-most bought candy, meanwhile, is saltwater taffy, followed by Dubble Bubble Gum. Nationally, Nos. 2 and 3 are M&Ms and Snickers.

The list compiled by candystore.com for each state is based on 15 years’ worth of sales data collected by the bulk candy seller, which ships candy across the nation. Major candy manufacturers and distributors also provide input to shape the list.

Source: CandyStore.com.

Sweet Spending

Waking up the morning after Halloween, those coveted favorites are sometimes saved for last – or have been snagged by parents for a late-night snack.

The the National Retail Federation projects this year’s Halloween haul for U.S. stores at $3.1 billion, which would be a new record. That’s up from the pandemic’s depressed $2.4 billion in sales. 

Overall Halloween spending, meanwhile, also set to hit a new record at an estimated $10.6 billion. That will beat last year’s $10.1 billion if realized, based on what consumers reported. 

Cowboy-Sized Sales

Candy in Wyoming has a big economic impact, accounting for $31.8 million in economic output, $7.9 million in wages and $7.5 million in federal, state and local taxes, according to the National Confectioner’s Association. 

The candy industry accounts for around 207 direct jobs and 742 indirect jobs, for a total of 949 in the Cowboy State.

While Halloween is the biggest day for candy sales nationwide, that’s not the case for Wyoming’s own candymakers.

“I don’t believe anybody in a specialty candy shop would say that October is a big month for them,” Kenny Lee of Cowtown Candy in Cody told Cowboy State Daily.  

But Halloween does begin the overall holiday season, which Lee said collectively generates about 40% of his annual sales. 

With Halloween, there are expectations on specialty candy shops. They have to be ready for the occasion, and they are, Lee said. The caramel apples are glistening, and there are plenty of chocolate ghosts and pumpkins. 

“Those are primarily purchased by grandmothers who want a special treat for grandkids,” Lee said. “So there’s still a market. I don’t want to make it sound like we’re languishing or anything like that. 

“Halloween is a big candy holiday, it’s just not as big for us as Christmas and Thanksgiving.”

Get Creative

Inflation and supply chain issues have complicated the picture for Lee and other Wyoming candymakers.

“You have to get creative,” he said. “The prices have (gone) up so much. Some of our bigger suppliers, you know even Jelly Belly, for instance, have had some issues getting some of the raw materials they work with. 

“But we’re talking about huge quantities, and they’re not going to go down to the corner store to buy what they need.”

Supply Chain Squeeze

Lee has been in contact with other candymakers in the state so that they can help each other out and be better prepared for handling their busiest time of year. With the national candy giants buying huge quantities of ingredients it could be more difficult for smaller, independent stores to get theirs.

He and other candy makers are also stockpiling some ingredients or even planning alternate inventories just in case.

“It’s been a struggle. We ended up ordering in a year’s supply of popcorn and a year’s supply of chocolate,” Ryan Stepp with Donnells Candies in Casper told Cowboy State Daily. “We just had to get what we could when we could, and stay ahead of it that way.”

Stepp estimates the popcorn kernels he bought were ordered three months earlier than typical, but that way he’s sure he has them when he needs them.

So far, Stepp hasn’t had much trouble sourcing sugar, but he wrestled with finding corn syrup for a while. 

“I had to find a new vendor that I could buy corn syrup in bulk volumes from,” he said. “I brought in several buckets, 50-pound buckets, so I’ve got enough to get me through Valentine’s.”

Cowtown Candy in Cody was a popular place on Halloween. (Courtesy Photo)

Almost Recession-Proof

Stepp isn’t too worried about a recession, despite making such large orders in advance.

“Typically, when the economy is kind of going into recession, people dial back on the big-ticket items, and so we can stay pretty consistent if not up a little bit, because they start buying smaller gifts,” he said. “So instead of $100 earrings, they’re going to buy a $40 box of chocolates, stuff like that. We actually fare pretty well in that regard.”

Lee also is planning ahead.

“We’re looking for anything that we can get that keeps us in business,” he said. “If we can’t make it and sell it, then all we’re going to have is gifts and toys — as long as we can still get those. And so we’re being much more careful about keeping our supplies in stock.”

Signature Candies 

Specialty candymakers generally have a signature item they’re known for. These are essential to keep sales going all year long outside of holidays and July, which is peak tourism month in Wyoming.

The staple at Donnells Candies are Pecan Pixies. 

“Most refer to them as turtles,” Stepp said. “But they have turtles trademarked, so we call ours Pixies. Our truffles are really popular too.”

At Cowtown Candy, the signature candy is Cody Crunch.

“The locals here call it Cody Crack,” Lee said. “That’s probably one of our bigger sellers, but also our fudge. We make our own fudge.”

Overall, though, Lee said he knows Wyoming’s favorite Halloween candy is the Peanut Butter Cups. He hopes his shop can capitalize on that. 

“We have a crazy good peanut butter cup,” he said. “Ours is a family recipe that’s been around for a long time, even before we bought the candy store. We’ve had so many people say, ‘You’ve ruined me. I can’t go back to those packaged peanut butter cups anymore.’”

Lee also is aware that Wyoming’s second most favorite candy is saltwater taffy. His store doesn’t sell that yet, but not because he doesn’t want to.

“We wanted to get into that,” he said. “But we’re having to back off on some of our plans for expansion just because we can’t,” he said. “We can’t get enough labor.”

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter