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Scare tactics: Jack o' lanterns do the trick for grocers

Date

Rachel Wells

Heads will roll: Mohammad Ali Rezai sets up a pumpkin display at Fountain Gate vegetable market.

Heads will roll: Mohammad Ali Rezai sets up a pumpkin display at Fountain Gate vegetable market. Photo: Wayne Taylor

TWELVE years ago, fresh produce wholesaler Moraitis took a punt on a variety of pumpkins that would cost customers about $15 each, yet are barely edible.

Some thought they were mad. But the Moraitis family were hopeful the Halloween tradition that has long been a part of American culture might soon take off here.

They enlisted contract growers to plant 1000 head of Spooky Pete pumpkins - the soft-skin variety commonly grown in America to be carved into jack o' lanterns come October 31.

''We were starting to get a few queries about them, so we started them as a bit of a trial here to see if there was any interest from a Halloween point of view,'' says Michael Antico, Moraitis' general manager for national retail solutions.

This year, three growers in far north Queensland and Broome planted 200,000 head of pumpkin between them. Mr Antico expects most of these will be snapped up in the coming days through supermarkets and independent grocers, including giants Coles and Woolworths.

''The demand has grown little by little every year and then probably in the last four or five years it has really started to escalate as Halloween as an event has really taken off here,'' Mr Antico says.

About 24 per cent of Australians plan to celebrate Halloween this year, according to McCrindle Research. Social analysts suggest the commercialisation of the event is behind its growing popularity.

Certainly, Moraitis has had a vested interest in promoting the event here. ''I guess we were one of the drivers of it because we were taking the pumpkins to the retailers and then we brought some of the confectionary people to the table with us and said, 'Well, maybe we can expand this and make a bigger event around it'.''

It seems to have worked. Coles says sales of its Spooky Pete pumpkins are up 30 per cent on last year. Mr Antico expects interest in Halloween and demand for jack o' lantern pumpkins to continue to rise.

With the average price per pumpkin about $15 and the variety better suited to carving than eating, the pumpkins are planted mid-year so they ripen just in time for trick-or-treating.

''Some people do eat them but they are predominantly bought and sold for ornamental reasons,'' Mr Antico says.

100 comments so far

  • Great. The Americanisation of this country continues unabated.

    Trick or treaters come to my door they get nothing.

    Commenter
    Spacks
    Date and time
    October 24, 2012, 7:57AM
    • Just watch they don't egg your house or car - that's part of the tradition for some.

      Commenter
      excelsior
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 8:30AM
    • Lighten up Spacks. You sound like the sort of person who yells at little kids who make a bit of noise in the supermarket.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Location
      Western Suburbs
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 9:23AM
    • Halloween is NOT an American invention. It was an ancient primitive celebration of the change of seasons........ from harvest, Autumn to Winter. Get facts straight please.

      And secondly, what is wrong with celebrating it. Are you so miserably mean you would deny kids a bit of fun?

      Thirdly do you complain of the snow and winter infested christmas scenes that pack our shelves in December? Are you just as miserably mean about Christmas?

      Do you watch American television? Do you buy American products? I suspect you are merely a hypocrite.

      Commenter
      sniffer dog
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 9:39AM
    • Halloween does not have American origins; the general thinking is that it is Celtic and/or Scottish, and although some consider it to have come from Pagan traditions, there is evidence its origins are related to Christian celebrations You'd better stop celebrating St. Patricks day and Christmas as well.

      Commenter
      Leonandon
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 10:12AM
    • No, I am not so mean as to deny children a "little bit of fun". But I will deny them the chance to become obese and reliant on an already overburdened health care system by providing them with terrible, teeth rotting foods to celebrate a "holiday" that makes no sense in this country.

      @sniffer dog
      If Halloween celebrates "harvest, Autumn to Winter" why do we celebrate it now?

      @Leonandon
      Not being Irish I don't celebrate St Patrick's day. Not being Christian I don't celebrate Christmas.

      @Dave
      Yes, I would gladly yell at children who parents are obviously so inept and parenting that they can't control their children in a public area.

      Any other questions?

      Commenter
      Spacks
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 10:43AM
    • Spacks, if you don't want children coming to your door, then I suggets you turn off your lights so it looks like you're not at home. That's what folks do in North America when they don't want to be bothered and children respect that and stay away.
      Halloween is seriously good fun when you dress up with a group of friends, collect candy or get a fun fright from other kids/neighbours.
      Yes, this stuff is commercialized but it leaves you with so many good memories! Children/parents need to make sure their children stay safe by checking the quality of their lollies and warning them about strangers. Trick or treating should always be done with guardians and lots of friends. Too many times I've seen children come to my door on their own, in the middle of the night and it's frightening.

      Commenter
      Wicked Witch
      Location
      of the West
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 11:00AM
    • Ok Grinch,. btw you don't eat these pumpkins, you carve faces into them. You might try a Romney or Obama face. Julia Gillard, perhaps?

      Commenter
      Dr Strangelove
      Location
      NY
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 11:04AM
    • @ Sniffer Dog -
      "It was an ancient primitive celebration of the change of seasons........ from harvest, Autumn to Winter."

      So why the heck are we doing this pagan celebration of seasons after harvest in SPRING!!!
      Doh!

      Commenter
      Kinda obvious
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 11:17AM
    • @Spacks and @Kinda obvious - "So why the heck are we doing this pagan celebration of seasons after harvest in SPRING!!!"
      Because most of your ancestors originated from Europe which is where the celebration has its roots. For the Celtics, it was one of the most significant days in their calendar. The day has been held in tradition for thousands of years. Just because you've moved to the southern hemisphere in the last few hundred years, doesn't mean the date is going to change.

      Commenter
      Traveller
      Date and time
      October 24, 2012, 11:54AM

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