Does it seem like holiday themed items and flavored food appear in retail stores earlier and earlier each year? That’s not an accident, according to Ernest Baskin, Ph.D., assistant professor of food marketing and an expert in consumer behavior and marketing research.

U.S. shoppers are expected to spend $8.8 billion on Halloween purchases this year, according to the National Retail Federation's annual survey. Specifically, $2.6 billion on Halloween candy alone.

Baskin explains why pumpkin-flavored everything and Halloween-themed goodies continue to fly off the shelves.

“Holiday-themed flavors show that a company is responsive to the marketplace and is in touch with what is on consumers’ minds,” says Baskin. “Many consumers go to stores specifically looking for holiday-related products and holiday-themed flavors help fill this need. It’s intentional that products are on display and available for purchase well in advance of the actual holiday.”

Baskin highlights how companies use this strategy as a means to uniquely promote their own take on the holiday and profit most from consumers in favor of a specific brand. As the craze continues to grow, companies have been feeling the pressure to continuously create different iterations of beloved themed products in order to keep consumers’ attention.

“Consumers typically make their purchases based on habit, but also get bored and may make purchases based on promotions advertised in the marketplace. That being said, the most successful brands answer the question of why the consumer should purchase their brand right at that moment,” he says. “Scarcity, specialty flavors and promotions remain some of the most important factors in consumer decision-making.”

The fall season increases consumers’ desire for specialty foods, such as pumpkin flavors and chocolate, as a way of obtaining affordable luxuries, however, it is ultimately up to the company to seal the deal.

Baskin adds, “Consumers look forward to consistency and often choose a few categories of products in which they ‘trade up.’ Specialty products offer that ‘trading up’ opportunity, but it is still up to them to convince the average consumer that they should spend more in their particular category.”

Some limited time Halloween candy that hit the shelves this year for the first time include Zombie Skittles, Pumpkin Pie Kit Kats and M&M'S Creepy Cocoa Crisp.

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