It is essentially something that mainly children get excited about, but adults are just as likely to be tempted by a whimsically decorated cupcake or cookie. Although Halloween-themed products are only sold for a short period of time, it is still a key trading time for bakeries and can drive noticeable profit increases.
Chatwins MD Trevor Mooney says that trading at Halloween is "becoming more important each year", and that his shops certainly notice a boost in trade. He says it's too early to say what the company has planned this year, but in previous years the craft bakery chain has produced Halloween fondants and treats, such as pumpkin biscuits. Mooney says Halloween products are most popular with children - and adults buying them tend to be buying them for their kids. As Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, he says, the shops will most likely stock Halloween products for around a week to a week-and-a-half in the run-up to the day itself.
Laura Davies, Finsbury Food's own-label commercial manager also believes the fact that Halloween falls at the weekend this year will help drive trade, as people are likely to hold more Halloween events. "Finsbury is seeing a growth in the Halloween trade year-on-year," says Davies. "This year it falls on a Saturday, so we expect the increased volume of weekend parties to drive sales."
In terms of trends for this year, she says, considering consumers are cutting costs due to the recession, Finsbury is expecting to see growth in the sales of the more affordable 'value' products.
One way of drawing in the customers is by creating interesting window displays, showcasing your Halloween products, as well as livening up the shop. Christopher Freeman, owner of Dunns of Crouch End emphasises the importance of making the effort to create window displays for Halloween. "It's very important to put your products in the front window, because otherwise you're not appealing to anyone apart from your existing customers," he says.
Dunns displays Halloween products, such as gingerbread, decorated cupcakes, marzipan figures, chocolates and pumpkin bread, as well as using decorations, although Freeman says it cannot dedicate the entire shop window to Halloween, as the shop is well under way promoting Christmas by then. "Halloween has definitely become more popular and seems to improve year-on-year," he says. "It's something a bit different and certainly generates quite a lot of interest, and it's another opportunity for bakers to put their best foot forward."
And it doesn't even have to be bakery-related. Graham Cotton of Bitterne Park Triangle Bakery has decided to launch a pumpkin-growing competition. Pumpkin plants can be collected from the bakery to be grown over the summer, and will be entered into the best-decorated pumpkin competition, for the entry fee of £1, to take place on Halloween itself.
== Pumpkin power ==
Pastry supplier Jus-Rol says that Halloween is the perfect time to bring seasonality to your products by using pumpkin. It comes into season in September and can be baked, boiled, steamed or roasted for use in bakery products such as muffins, tarts or, as Jus-Rol suggests, in a pumpkin pie. It also recommends mixing melted butter, sugar and chopped nuts, which can be added to the top of the pie after 30 minutes' baking time for a crunchy topping. "Halloween provides an ideal opportunity for bakers to cash in during a relative lull in the calendar year," comments Macphie strategic marketing manager Paula Cormack. "Make sure window displays are inviting and products are well merchandised. Some bakery retailers change their point-of-sale as often as three times a day to match what's sitting on counter." Macphie offers a range of products which can be used to create Halloween treats, including its Mississippi muffin and cake mixes, and 5th Avenue icings, sugar plaques and sweets for decoration.
In terms of popular products to spook-up, items such as gingerbread biscuits are always popular with children, especially if they get the chance to decorate their own. BakeMark suggests taking advantage of the popular cupcake trend and decorating them for Halloween. Bakers, it says, could use its Extra Moist Toffee Cake Mix with Caramel Crembel Fudge Icing, together with an iced pumpkin, to make a themed cupcake, while chocolate or vanilla Fudge Crembel could be used to create spiders' webs or ghosts. Alternatively, apple pieces could be included in the mix for toffee apple muffins, for example. "Halloween provides a great opportunity for bakers to create great eye-catching and attractive products with a real point of difference to help drive sales," comments marketing manager Lisa Boswell.
Whether the growth in Halloween is down to the influence of America, the marketing drive of pumpkin growers or an increased focus on Halloween products from the supermarkets, it is certainly important that bakers make the most of the opportunity to bring in new custom. And, with the recession a constant weight on consumers' minds, they're sure to be after a treat when they come knocking on your door.
=== Supermarket snapshot ===
l Morrisons will be running a number of lines including: firework cupcakes, spooky lime trifle, gingerbread skeletons and chocolate spider biscuits.
l Waitrose will be selling gingerbread pumpkin biscuits, gingerbread spider biscuits, spider cupcakes and Fiona Cairns bug fairy cakes. It also sells a spider cake all year round through Waitrose Entertaining, which it says is perfect for a Halloween party as it is decorated with a spider, eyeballs and bones made with icing.
l Sainsbury's says there will be a number of changes to its Halloween offering this year, as it aims to appeal to all its customers - both children and adults. "The range will run on a theme, parts of which will be unique to Sainsbury's," said a spokesperson for the supermarket, although he couldn't be persuaded to divulge anything further. "We believe that Halloween will be a big event this year, as it falls on a Saturday, so there will be plenty of opportunities for people to hold parties."