For 11 months of the year, Tim LeBel is Mars Wrigley’s president of sales. But for the month of October, he dons a new title: chief Halloween officer.

For decades, the fall holiday has been the biggest day of the year for candy makers. In recent years, Halloween has also stretched to become a three-month season for Mars and rivals such as Hershey, Ferrero and Mondelez, and the retailers who stock their candy.

The National Retail Federation predicts consumers will spend $3.6 billion on Halloween candy this year, up from $3.1 billion last year, even as many shoppers pull back spending elsewhere.

“We know that during difficult economic times, consumers are particularly interested in enjoying kind of the simple things in life … like Halloween,” Hershey CEO Michele Buck told investors in July on the company’s quarterly conference call.

Unlike Hershey, family-owned Mars doesn’t report its financial results, but disclosed nearly $45 billion in annual revenue in 2021. While best known for a candy portfolio that includes M&M’s, Snickers, Three Musketeers and Twix, Mars also makes ice cream, chewing gum and pet food.

With the stakes so high for Halloween, Mars starts planning for the holiday two years in advance. LeBel said he sits down with key retailers to discuss trends across flavors, packaging and sustainability.

“A lot of those things take two years to develop and execute to bring to market,” LeBel told CNBC. “So the things we looked at in 2021, you’re starting to see this year in 2023.”

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