Trick-or-treating is the favorite Halloween tradition for children around the United States. Little girls and boys dress up as ghosts, witches, cowboys and cats, ring neighbors' doorbells and get treats — or else. While the tradition of going door-to-door and begging for candy hasn’t changed much since its widespread adoption in the 1930s, the candies in those pillowcases and pumpkin-shaped buckets certainly have.
Some confections, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s bars and Baby Ruths have been popular ever since trick-or-treating came into vogue. But other candies have gone in and out of fashion (and production). You’ll be hard-pressed to find many Boston Baked Beans, Oh Henry! bars or Satellite Wafers these days. What was in your trick-or-treat bag when you were going door-to-door? To determine the top candy of every decade, we researched treat trends and when today’s most popular candies debuted. So, take a walk down memory lane and see the newest and most beloved Halloween candies of every decade.
Introduced in 1921, Baby Ruths were a huge hit in the roaring ‘20s. This candy bar made of peanuts, caramel and chocolate-flavored nougat eventually became the top-selling 5-cent confection of the decade. Other popular Halloween candies in the ‘20s include Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Oh Henry! bars and Bit-O-Honey.
When it was first introduced in 1932, the 3 Musketeers bar consisted of three smaller whipped nougat chocolate-coated candies flavored with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry (hence the name). Wartime rations made parent company Mars ditch the other two flavors, leaving just the whipped chocolate filling trick-or-treaters get today. Other new and popular candies from the 1930s include Snickers, candy buttons and Boston Baked Beans.
It may be hard to imagine a trick-or-treat bag without the iconic M&M’s, but they didn’t come on the market until 1941. The candy got so popular throughout the decade that the Mars candy company had to start stamping their candy-shelled chocolates with little Ms to distinguish them from imitators. Bazooka Bubble Gum and Almond Joys were also huge in the ‘40s.
Fittingly titled, Atomic Fireballs are cinnamon-flavored orbs. These spicy-sweet jawbreakers were created in 1954 and quickly became a favorite for adventurous children. Atomic Fireballs weren’t the only spicy cinnamon confection introduced in the ‘50s. Hot Tamales also came onto the market at the start of the decade. Generally speaking, 1950s candies were a little bit more subdued, with Necco Wafers, Satellite Wafers and black licorice-flavored treats winning over children.
Sugar was back in full force in the 1960s, led by the new sugary, tart and appropriately named candy, SweeTarts. These circular confections featured fruity flavors like cherry, lime, lemon, orange and grape. That wasn’t the end of the fruit-flavored fun. Banana flavor was also huge with Necco’s Banana Splits and banana Slap Stix. Mike & Ike, Pixy Stix and Starburst were also popular.
Sour Patch Kids as we know and love today were introduced in the American market in the 1980s. Before they got their name, they were called Mars Men, and rumor has it they got the new name to cash in on the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of the ‘80s. Beyond these wild treats, Willy Wonka candies such as Runts and Nerds were also hugely popular. In general, fruity flavors carried over from the ‘70s to the ‘80s with popular candies like Ring Pops and Skittles making their debut.
Though technically introduced in the mid-1980s, out-of-control AirHeads were an iconic candy for ‘90s kids. Other playful favorites followed suit, with Baby Bottle Pops, Push Pops and Bubble Jugs all being rare but coveted scores on Halloween. And who can forget the super-sour WarHeads? Try not to pucker when eating one of those.
The ‘80s and ‘90s trends continued well into the 2000s, with the popularity of cookies-and-cream chocolate bars, Sour Patch Kids and the Nerds Rope all soaring. First introduced in the mid-‘90s, this gummy string candy with Nerds attached to it was a much-desired big candy item.
What’s old is new again in the 2010s. Despite a movement towards healthier Halloween treats and new confections such as candy corn-flavored Hershey’s bars and new flavors of M&M’s, classic candies are what’s most commonly found in trick-or-treat bags. The most popular candy of 2018 was Skittles, while other commonly found candies include M&M’s, Snickers and the ubiquitous Reese’s. And while you can still find plenty of classic candies and new treats in your bag, there are plenty of vintage candies you probably didn’t realize still exist.
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