Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
The Candy Capitals of the U.S. [2023 Data Study]
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The beginning of the fall season means that Halloween is on its way. Scary movies, spooky costumes, and pumpkin carving are all time-honored Halloween traditions, but trick-or-treating — and the accompanying appetite for candy — is perhaps the season’s most distinguishing feature.
Recent research from the National Retail Federation found that handing out candy is the most common way consumers celebrate the holiday, with more than two-thirds of households planning to do so in 2023.¹ And despite a steep rise in candy prices over the past 2 years,² the demand for Halloween candy in the U.S. shows no sign of waning. Americans are projected to spend a substantial $3.6 billion this year to stock up on their Halloween treats.³
With such a major economic impact, Halloween stands as one of the primary drivers of candy sales in the U.S. However, the country’s candy production industry plays a role that extends far beyond a single holiday, exerting a noteworthy influence on the economies of various states and localities. In these designated “candy capitals,” confectionery production and retail account for a disproportionate number of local jobs and businesses.
The Nation’s Candy Capitals by State
To determine which local economies are most reliant on the candy industry, our researchers created a composite score that factored in the concentration of employment, payroll, and locations of candy producers and candy retail stores compared to the national average. For example, while California — the birthplace of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, See’s Candies, and Jelly Belly, among others — leads the nation in overall candy industry employment, the percentage of California workers in the candy industry is only about 1.4 times higher than the national average.
On the other hand, while Vermont employs a much smaller number of candy workers overall, the concentration of candy workers in Vermont is nearly 4.5 times the national average. Vermont — home of Lake Champlain Chocolates and a wide variety of maple sugar candy producers — also boasts the highest concentration of candy businesses in the nation, making it the U.S. state economy most dependent on the candy industry.
Other top-ranked state candy capitals include Illinois — home of Ferrara Candy Company, Tootsie Roll, and Wrigley’s — as well as New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
The Nation’s Candy Capitals by Metro
At the local level, the nation’s prominent candy capitals are a mix of small towns with 1 or 2 large candy manufacturing brands — like the Vallejo-Fairfield, California metro, which is home to Jelly Belly, or the Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania metro that houses Hershey. Also scoring high are popular tourist hotspots, like beach towns that produce saltwater taffy and other boardwalk candies.
For a breakdown of major metros and all 50 U.S. states, here is the report’s complete data table:
The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns survey, which includes statistical estimates for U.S. businesses with employees. To determine the candy capitals of the U.S., researchers at Upgraded Points created a composite score for each location based on the concentrations of employment, payroll, and establishments in the candy industry relative to the national averages. Both “Sugar and confectionery product manufacturing” businesses and “Confectionery and nut stores” were considered. Additionally, only locations with positive values across the resulting metrics were included.
Trick or treating stands as Halloween’s most beloved tradition, with over two-thirds of households planning to join in the 2023 festivities by distributing candy. Consequently, Halloween serves as a substantial economic driver for the candy industry.
In contrast to many other product categories, the candy purchased in the U.S. is still primarily domestically produced. Manufacturing facilities for some of the world’s most renowned confectionery brands are spread across the country. These brands, along with a diverse array of smaller candy producers and retail shops, notably impact specific state and local economies.
While California leads in overall candy industry employment, Vermont boasts the highest concentrations of candy industry workers and businesses relative to the size of its economy. The candy sector holds considerable sway in Vermont and other state candy capitals such as Illinois, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
Similarly, at the local level, a combination of small towns housing 1 or 2 prominent candy manufacturers and bustling tourist destinations collectively emerge as the nation’s foremost candy hubs.
1. National Retail Federation. (2023, September 20). Halloween Spending to Reach Record $12.2 Billion as Participation Exceeds Pre-Pandemic Levels. https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/halloween-spending-reach-record-122-billion-participation-exceeds-pre. Retrieved October 5, 2023.
2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, September 13). Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Candy and Chewing Gum in U.S. City Average. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CUUR0000SEFR02. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
3. National Retail Federation. (2023). Halloween Data Center. https://nrf.com/research-insights/holiday-data-and-trends/halloween/halloween-data-center. Retrieved October 10, 2023.
Featured Image Credit: Upgraded Points
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