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Bunnies, Peeps and Beans: Easter Is Candy Marketing’s Big Week

Like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Easter is now a major US candy retailing holiday. The big chocolate companies, the jelly bean makers and the marshmallow Peeps folks all count on Easter as their last blast before summer’s heat makes sweets less appealing.

Family and community egg hunts account for large amounts of candy sales, but filling individual Easter baskets is also a big reason for Easter sales spikes. People love the brightly colored foils and the molded chocolate bunnies, and the packaging is a bright reminder that spring has arrived. The pop-up displays in stores and the annual appearance of the Cadbury Bunny on TV spots herald the season just as candy canes announce the Christmas holidays.

I take an interest in candy marketing not just because I am a chocoholic; my home state of Pennsylvania has a pretty good corner on the seasonal candy market. Here in Reading, PA, R. M. Palmer Company has been producing chocolate bunnies for Easter baskets since 1948. An hour away to the east, in Bethlehem, PA, Marshmallow Peeps have been rolling off the line at candy manufacturer Just Born since 1953, when the firm acquired the original makers, the Rodda Candy Company. Today the traditional chicks are joined by marshmallow bunnies in rainbow colors, and fans of the gooey critters can now buy a wide array of Peeps branded merchandise. Just to our west in Hershey, PA, Reese’s peanut butter eggs and rainbow-foil-wrapped Kisses are joined by candy-coated chocolate eggs and other Easter basket-aimed confections.

Sweet Sales Figures

Seasonal candy sales are big business; according to Nielsen research, candy sales spike 5.8% during seasonal sales efforts. While Halloween and Valentine’s Day are among those top weeks, the top-selling week is the one leading up to Easter totaling about $4 billion in sales in 2021 alone. According to the National Confectioners Association, Easter candy sales are set to be even higher in 2022, showing a 5-7% increase.

Candy sales are such big business that many manufacturers use seasonal marketing to create brand extensions and test new flavors and products. In addition to chocolate bunnies and colored candy eggs, there are Jolly Rancher Easter lollipops and Easter eggs from brands like Twix and M&M’s. Even “luxury” brands like Godiva and Lindt produce Easter-themed confections.

As you fill Easter baskets this season, take a moment to enjoy the visual over-stimulation of Easter candy packaging and typography. Remember the delights of hunting for brightly wrapped candies and eggs in the backyard. And raise a sticky-fingered salute to the candy marketers of the nation as they enjoy the annual Easter boost to sales figures. 

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