When it comes to candy sales, Halloween makes retailers shriek — with delight.

Oct. 31 is the candy industry’s perennial top holiday. Sales of sweets for 2009 are expected to hit almost $2.3 billion, a 3 percent increase from 2008, and a 1.8 percent increase from last year’s Halloween candy sales, reports the National Confectioners Association.

Giving — and eating — candy during key U.S. holidays accounts for about a quarter of all confectionery sold during the year, says the NCA. Since 1995, Halloween has beat out Easter when it comes to candy consumption. Sales during Christmas-season holidays and Valentine’s Day round out the sweets market.

Holidays or no holidays, America’s sweet tooth is keeping candy makers and sellers (not to mention dentists) smiling.

In 2008, each American consumed 23.8 pounds of candy. Of course, that’s an average, so some of us made up for friends and family with more willpower. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that much of that candy probably was eaten by kids the evening of Oct. 31 and the next few days.

Cravings help drive the economy

Consumer candy cravings also were a big contributor to the U.S. economy.

Census researchers report that 1,233 manufacturing establishments in 2007 produced $13.2 billion worth of chocolate and cocoa products. It took 38,794 employees to make the goodies, with California and Pennsylvania leading the nation in the number of production facilities. The Golden State had 143 chocolate operations; 115 were in the Keystone State.

Another 466 establishments manufactured nonchocolate confectionery products in 2007. They employed 18,250 people and shipped $6.6 billion worth of goods that year. California again led the nation in this category, say Census statisticians, with 70 manufacturers.

Along with candy, Halloween wouldn’t be complete without costumes. Forty-three percent of adults feel that costumes are one of the most indispensible parts of the holiday. And here are more than 2,000 costume rental and formal wear establishments in the U.S as of 2007.

Some additional Halloween and candy facts:

  • Around 36 million trick-or-treaters between the ages of 5 and 13 hit neighborhood streets Oct. 31, 2008 — that’s an increase of almost 65,000 kids from 2007, and doesn’t include those younger and older who trick or treat.
  • There are 111.4 million potential stops for the goody seekers. This is the number of housing units the Census Bureau says are occupied year-round.
  • More than 52 percent of candy handed out on Halloween is chocolate, while three in 10 will give out hard candy or lollipops.
  • When first returning home from trick or treating, 30 percent of kids report that they like to sort out their loot.
  • The first milk chocolate was created in Switzerland in 1876.
  • The melting point of cocoa butter is just below the human body temperature, which is why it literally melts in your mouth.
  • A typical 1.5-ounce chocolate bar contains 15 percent of the recommended daily value for riboflavin.

So just how do you gauge your Halloween candy needs? You can start by counting the number of 5-to-13-year-old kids who live in your area. That’s the primary age range, says the Census Bureau, of candy seeking ghouls and goblins.

But don’t forget to get a little something for the older “kids.” Ninety percent of parents admit to sneaking a few goodies from their children’s trick-or-treat bags. Miniature chocolate bars are their favorite treat to snitch.