A closeup of a bowl of Skittles.

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The top 10 Halloween candies of all time

October 30, 2018 - 12:11 pm

By Mark G. McLaughlin

Anyone who has ever gone trick or treating has participated in the most hallowed of all Halloween rituals – dumping out their haul on the table and sorting out the good candy from the cheap stuff. The next part of that ritual is just as important – trading for the “good stuff.” This last part is where the holiday really becomes interesting, because, fortunately, different people have different tastes. For most, chocolate rules, but there are many others who would gladly swap two chocolate bars for a bag of fruit-flavored candies. While the list of most popular candies changes from year to year, here, in no particular order, are 10 that have stood the test of time to rate being hailed as the Top Halloween Candies of All Time.


In 1941 the U.S. Government held a contest to determine what candy should go into the portable rations that soldiers carried with them into the field. The Mars & Murrie candy company won that contract with a tiny candy-coated chocolate that was more resistant to the tropical heat of the Pacific and North African theaters of war. Thus were born the classic M&Ms  which. Ever since, they have been near the top of every chocolate candy lover’s list, in part because, as Mars & Murrie promised the troops back in World War II, this is the candy that melts in your mouth and not in your hand. M&Ms are still the stars of movie theater concession stands and among the most welcome treats in Christmas stockings, but it is at Halloween when they really stand out. After all, what other candy can boast that it helped win a war? With nearly 2.5 million pounds sold during the Halloween season alone, M&Ms deserve – and are holding on firmly – to a place of honor on the all-time list of top Halloween candies.


Skittles are to fruit-flavored candy what M&Ms are to chocolate. Tiny little sugar-coated candies which, like M&Ms, also melt in your mouth before they melt in your hand. Born in Britain in 1974, these wee sweets soon jumped across the pond to become a big hit in the United States. By the early 1980s, almost every kid wanted to “taste the rainbow” of brightly-colored fruity candies, and their popularity continues to grow. Wrigley, famous for its chewing gum (and now part of the same company that makes M&Ms) makes nearly 3.5 million pounds of these concoctions of sugar, fruit juice, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and other ingredients just to fill trick-or-treat baskets. For more than a decade, they have been and still are the best-selling candy by volume at Halloween.

Hershey Bars

The venerable Hershey Bar, like its fellow veteran M&Ms, was prized by soldiers and civilians alike during World War II, so much so that it became a kind of currency on a par with cigarettes and nylons. Hershey is arguably the first name in American chocolate, and its Kisses, in particular, are the staple of Easter baskets and Christmas stockings. Hershey makes a multitude of candy bars, but it is the classic Hershey Bar upon which the company, and the legend, was built. Although not as popular with the current generation as it was with that of their parents and especially grandparents, the Hershey Bar will always hold a place of honor among the all-time top 10.

Jolly Ranchers

Not everybody wants a candy they can gobble up by the handful or chomp down in a few bites. Many like to savor the long-lasting flavor of a hard candy. Jolly Ranchers provide just that. It seems that every year Hershey adds a new flavor or invents a new combination of flavors for its best-selling hard candy line. Whether you like traditional sweet or sour fruit flavors or prefer something hot and spiced with cinnamon, there is a Jolly Ranchers just for you. When the makers of Jolly Ranchers say “our candy sucks,” they say it with pride. Trick-or-treaters made this the first candy to top the million-pound mark for Halloween candy sales, and it is still the best-selling and most anticipated hard candy of the season.

Kit Kat Bars

Every candy lover knows the “give me a break, give me a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar” jingle, but it is largely because it can indeed be broken into pieces and shared that it became so popular. That and the fact that this four-fingered chocolate-covered wafer is a perfect marriage of a cookie and a candy bar. First made by an English confectioner in the 1930s and later acquired by Nestle, Kit Kat bars are a staple at every supermarket checkout counter. While getting a full-sized bar in a trick-or-treat bag is pretty much the equivalent of finding the Holy Grail, it is handed out in smaller sizes at Halloween and is among the first candies that any parent will claim when sorting through the Halloween loot.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

When Reese's brought chocolate and peanut butter together and put them in a candy, it was love at first sight for candy lovers, chocolate lovers and peanut butter lovers everywhere. Whether in the multi-bite size traditional cup, the tiny individually wrapped bite-sized mini, or even in the M&M/Skittle's type Reese's Pieces, it remains among the most highly-anticipated (and first eaten) Halloween treats. Hershey continues to come up with ingenious variations, but none of those (or any other candy) will ever kick the classic Reese's Peanut Butter Cup from its well-deserved spot on the Halloween all-time top 10.

Tootsie Pops

Since 1931, kids have wondered just how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Most give up counting and finally just bite their way through the fruity hard-candy shell to get to the chocolate drop at the heart of this candy on a stick. Tootsie Pops have been and still are among the top-selling Halloween candies, in part because each one comes individually wrapped. A bag of Tootsie Pops goes a long way when handing out treats to little tricksters, and as it can last a long time, it is one of the few candies that can be savored for more than a few minutes.


A fruit-flavored candy that chews like gum – but in a thick, cubed piece instead of a thin stick – Starburst is unique among Halloween hand-outs. Starburst come in many colors and flavors, and are packaged together in packs of individually wrapped candies that are perfectly suited for swapping. There are many who will give two, three or more for one of the pink ones, or who will trade a couple for a small mini-sized bar. MOre than 1.7 million pounds of Starburst were sold last Halloween alone, a new record for this candy that was first introduced by Wrigley in 1960.


While licorice could never compete with chocolate or fruit-flavored gums and hard candies, it is still far too important a candy to be ignored. Twizzlers in particular (either traditional or Red Vines) have kept licorice alive – and given those who do not like either chocolate or fruit flavored candy a third choice. Although rarely among the top 10 sellers (last year it ranked 25th), it has held its ground and proudly waved the licorice flag since 1845, making it not just the grandfather, but the great-great-grandfather of every other Halloween candy – and it is still going strong. For seniority alone, it deserves a spot on the all-time top 10, and the fact that it is still a darn fine candy makes it doubly deserving.


Who does not remember being offered a Lifesaver by their granddad? Those little rolls of donut-shaped candy have been a tradition since 1912. They are still, as the saying goes, “a hole lot of fun,” and for many reasons. They come in single-flavor, mixed-flavor and even theme-flavored rolls of 10 little hard candies, which can be shared, savored or saved for later. There are mini-packs, but getting a full-sized roll in your trick-or-treat bag is still like winning a special prize. Lifesavers are an American tradition, and the top 10 of all time list is in large part about longevity, and for that and so many other good reasons Lifesavers is guaranteed a spot on that list.