Standing in the center aisle of the drugstore, with its seasonal display of spooky bat decorations, vampire teeth and fun-sized bags of chocolate, don’t be surprised if something seems off.

It isn’t a nightmare. Your Halloween candy just got smaller.

A bag of dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses is now a couple ounces smaller than before. A two-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is a tenth of an ounce lighter. And Cadbury milk bars are about 10% skimpier.

Consumers can partly blame “shrinkflation” – the phenomenon of manufacturers reducing the size of their products rather than increasing the price. Over the past two years, companies have downsized paper products, salty snacks and many other consumer package goods as their ingredient, labor and transportation costs have skyrocketed.

But it’s also part of a years-long plan to make Americans’ treats less caloric. In 2017, Mars Wrigley, Ferrero (owner of Nestlé’s American candy business), Ferrara Candy Company and Lindt (which owns Ghirardelli Chocolate and Russell Stover Chocolates) joined forces to decrease calorie counts, offer a broader range of portion sizes and provide labeling that lists calories on the front of their packaging.

The National Confectioners Association last month announced that 85% of chocolate and candy sold today comes in packaging that contains 200 calories or less per pack. And nearly 100% of candies sold now have front-of-pack calorie labels, up from just over half in 2016.


“Five years ago, we were behind the ball on front-of-pack labeling,” said Christopher Gindlesperger, spokesman for the association. “Those four companies, that make up about half of the market, drove a remarkable change and rallied the rest of the industry.”

Other moves are intended to provide lighter options for candy consumers. Hershey, for instance, introduced “thins” versions of classic candies like Reese’s cups, York patties and Kit Kats. The company has launched an increasingly long list of zero-sugar options, from Jolly Ranchers to Twizzlers.

Ferrero’s Kinder Bueno debuted individually wrapped minis, and Mars Wrigley launched new sizing options including a .76-ounce Snickers bar that weighs in at only 100 calories.

Mars Wrigley declined to comment on other reductions in portion size, as did Ferrero, Ghirardelli Chocolate and Russell Stover Chocolates.

The beginning of the pandemic was tough for candy, said Sally Wyatt, a food and beverage expert for market research firm IRI. Many people skipped celebrating Easter and Halloween in 2020, and office vending machines barely saw any action. But 2021 saw booming times as families comforted themselves with sugary treats, with volume sales up more than 4%, the firm said. In the past year, things have shifted again, according to IRI data, with the number of sales dropping and prices spiking.

Food prices have risen 11.4% over the past year, the largest 12-month increase since May 1979.


Commerce data platform Klover, which collects spending and pricing data using receipts from 4 million users, found that the price of a king-size pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups went up 14% in 2022, A Kinder Joy Chocolate Egg Treat with toys cost 16% more and the cost of a regular 1.55-ounce Hershey’s milk chocolate bar went up 15 percent. Klover found king-size Skittles pricing increased by 10 percent year over year, and Twizzlers Pull ‘N’ Peel Cherry Candy prices increased by 9 percent.

In short, many candy sizes and packages are shrinking but prices aren’t.

“All of these companies are having to make these decisions based on cost,” Wyatt said. “But I can say with certainty candy companies committed to these [calorie reductions and front-of-label calorie counts] before that inflation started. The products that have transparent labeling outperform others.”

Edgar Dworsky, director of Consumer World and an expert on shrinkflation, said the phenomenon is common in the candy category.

“Do people pay less attention to the net weight of candy? Maybe. Is downsizing candy the end of the world? No. This is a treat,” he said. “Fun size” is subjective, with the size of packs and individual candies under that moniker varying wildly over the years.

Candy may in fact be the category that first experienced shrinkflation, said Dworsky. In the 1950s, he said, candy companies told vending machine operators they would have to raise prices, going from 5 cents per candy bar to 6 cents. The vending machine folks balked and asked the candy companies just to make the products smaller.


Dworsky’s message: The only way for consumers to protect themselves from shrinkflation is by memorizing product weights.

“It will go too far when you open that carton of eggs and there are only 11 inside,” he joked.

Nonprofit groups focused on health and nutrition have long advocated for candy makers to shrink the size of their products, reduce calorie counts and add clear front-of-label calorie counts.

“We applaud these companies for stepping up and helping consumers manage their sugar intake through innovation, transparency and education,” Nancy Roman, president of the Partnership for a Healthier America, said in a statement. “The results of this commitment show that companies have the opportunity to impact change while still maintaining their business models and keeping consumers front and center.”

With childhood obesity skyrocketing, it’s still an uphill battle. Portions may be smaller, but temptation grows: According to the National Confectioners Association, before the pandemic, Halloween was an 8-week season. Now it’s 10, even 12 weeks. That’s a whole extra month for every drugstore in the country to be overflowing shelves with candy.

For retailers it’s an opportunity to create some excitement and draw shoppers into stores for the holiday a little earlier. And it suits sweet-toothed customers just fine.

“Both retailers and consumers want it,” Wyatt said. Candy, after all, “is one of those inexpensive joys.”

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