FAMILIES are expected to hack away at 100,000 pumpkins this year, devour candy by the bucket and dress their kids with fangs, spooky ghost sheets or witches' hats as the ghoulish festival of Halloween becomes increasingly popular across Australian households.
Leading supermarket chains have poured millions of dollars into promoting Halloween, celebrated on the last night of October, with sales of easier-to-carve Jack O'Lantern pumpkins already up 30 per cent.
Confectioners have created special Halloween chocolates for the Australian market to feed the growing popularity of the essentially American ritual, with Coles reporting sales of chocolate on Halloween day three times higher than on normal trading days. ''People will start shopping from this week on but really October 30 is our biggest trading day around Halloween,'' said Coles general manager of merchandise Chris Garlick. ''We are seeing a gradual increase in how many customers get involved, and it's probably a generational thing too, where this generation with young kids at the moment are getting more and more into it.''
Not to be outdone, Woolworths is selling a range of pumpkin-flavoured beer under the Gage Roads beer brand and is using social media to spread the word with online tools such as instructions on how to carve a pumpkin and offering customers a stencil to download.
Fresh produce wholesaler Moraitis is the only grower of Halloween pumpkins in Australia and expects to sell about 100,000 this season to the supermarket chains and independent grocers. Moraitis has increased its pumpkin planting by 10 per cent a year to meet demand.
Data from McCrindle Research shows Gen Y was far more likely to have celebrated Halloween than Gen X and baby boomers.