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Once a holiday merely for children to don their best fancy dress and overdose on sweets, Halloween has now evolved into a fully-fledged and devilishly lucrative excuse to party for many an adult. Marking the ghoulish prelude to the Christmas marketing bonanza, and falling within a relatively uneventful post-summer lull in the calendar year, this US imported holiday is becoming increasingly accepted as a legitimate excuse for even fully grown men to slip on that zombie Marilyn Monroe costume they’ve dreamt of wearing all year.  It is predicted that £240 million will be spent by the British public this year, with £117 million of that going on food and drink; therefore retailers and restaurants alike are all beginning to get the trick of this scary spectacle by offering a veritable selection of treats for consumers.*

Although average spend at Halloween has historically been low, UK retailers have recently cottoned onto the frightfully profitable opportunity it can offer. Between 2009 and 2013 the number of food and drink products launched in conjunction with Halloween has risen by 263%, a figure substantially higher than the global rate. So what `spook-tacular’ treats can we find this year? As per usual, the main focus remains upon confectionery and cakes, with items like Tesco chocolate gooey brains, Cadbury’s Screme Egg, and green Jaffa Cakes making up the usual assortment  of branded  goods. Indicative of a growing shift towards a more adult appreciation of this haunting holiday, a number of tasty Halloween treats catering to adult tastes are appearing, with no ingredient more frequently used the than pumpkin. This humble autumnal squash comes in many forms across retail this autumn, as New Covent Garden released its Pumpkin Ghoulash soup, and Innocent unleash its Pumpkin, Mango and Echinacea Halloween smoothie.

Halloween carrot cake

Leading the way with some of the more innovative products is Fortnum and Mason, which is pushing the boat out to shock its customers this year. Its trick or treat truffle box mostly contains delicious salted caramel truffles, however, pick the wrong one and you could be chowing down on a less delightful  fish, garlic or curry flavoured chocolate. The luxury department store also offers an eerie array of edible insects to spook your friends, with real toasted scorpions, BBQ worms, and a tequila grub lollipop all available. With Selfridges also offering an anatomically accurate chocolate skull for a whooping £120, it is clear to see that retailers are doing their best to entice consumers at all levels of the market this Halloween.

Selfridges chocolate skull

Halloween falls on a Friday this year so the opportunities for the restaurant and hospitality industry to make a real spectacle of the event are more inviting than ever. This year there is certainly more than just pumpkin carving and apple bobbing on offer to bring in consumers.  Gelupo, one of London’s best gelaterias, has created a number of chilling treats for its customers, including gelato made from dark chocolate and pigs blood, and a Fire and Brimstone (chilli and smoke) ice cream. Herman ze German’s special Killer Curry Wurst is supposedly laced with a ‘godfather hell kiss’ of chilli that can turn the most seasoned spice lover into a weeping little girl. Street food is also taking a terrifying turn this Halloween as Kerb prepares to host the last of its evening parties with a  ‘Halloween Hell-raiser’ at Kings Cross.  Vampire slayer and bloody mess pizzas from Well Kneaded, Ghoulish Green Deathnuts and Beastly Blood Bites from You Doughnut,  and Baked Hearts, Hot Blood Sundaes,  and veiny choc-ices from Sorbitium are just some of the treats on offer.

With Halloween celebrated most avidly in Mexico as a day to celebrate the dead, many of London’s Mexican restaurants are joining in the dark celebrations too. Benito’s Hat has joined up with Backyard Cinema during its ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ season to produce The Red One- a blood red burrito filled with achiote braised chicken and beetroot salsa brava. Day of the Dead holiday celebrations are abundant across London as Archer Street is transformed into a Mexican street market this weekend, and Wahaca feeds hungry Halloween party-goers  from its taco van at its own festival in Brixton. With young adults representing the fastest growing age bracket of the market, the food industry is clearly wising up to their growing appetite for Halloween revelry.

For many of us it doesn’t take a lot of encouragement to don the fancy dress and party the night away with our friends, thus it’s easy to see how the Halloween bug has begun to cross over into annual celebration for more than just the kids. The UK food industry is clearly tapping into the huge potential of this American import, however with whole supermarket aisles dedicated to Halloween goods and spending upward of $11 billion dollars in the US, clearly we are merely scratching the surface.  Nevertheless, it is clear to see that this Halloween there is more gory goods than ever to scream about.*

*Retail week  Oct 2014/Biz Report Oct 2014

*Biz Report Oct 2014

Author – Jack Cliffe – Marketing and NPD Assistant