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Business

Pumpkin Popularity Boost to Retail Revenue

Halloween is not just a time for ghosts, ghouls and goblins. It is big business in Germany, already making some 100 million euros annually

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Pumpkins are all the rage around Halloween

In the fairy story Cinderella, a plain pumpkin is turned into a gleaming, golden carriage.

Today, this simple fruit has again turned into a goldmine – mainly due to its role in the annual autumn event, Halloween.

Once a fruit widely ignored by gourmets, hobby cooks and housewives, this garden fruit has accelerated to widespread stardom in recent years. Whether baked, steamed or sautee´d, the pumpkin has become one of Germany's favourite autumn vegetables, and Jack O'Lanterns – hollow Pumpkins with cut-out, grinning faces – can be found on household thresholds and shop entrances across the country in the autumn months.

In addition, pumpkin faces grin from shop window posters, and fill shelves shaped as sweets, paper lanterns, or plastic masks. Indeed, business with the pumpkin, and in general with Halloween, is on the rise in Germany. Around 100 million euros are made yearly with this event, according to economists – and is expected to increase i the next years.

Dark connotations

Halloween began as a Celtic Pagan holiday. The Pagans called it Samhain, the final feast of the year after the harvests. It was the time when the world was believed to die, with the promise that it would be reborn the next spring.

Centuries later, Halloween has kept its dark connotations – school children still dress up as witches and imps and carve hollow pumpkins with frightening faces to scare the bad ghosts away.

It is due to the Americans, however, that Halloween has become something of a family event, a day to party and a chance to celebrate. It was here, too, that Irish emigrates established their tradition of the hollow pumpkin centuries ago - a fruit which has now become a symbol for Halloween, along with the ghosts, witches and other frightening figures.

Toys, alchohol, sweets

In Germany, it is the toy industry which profits most from Halloween and its mascot, the grinning pumpkin face. According to Dieter Tschorn from the German Toy Association, the toy sector first brought Halloween to the public in 1994. Since then, the popularity of Halloween has increased steadily in Germany. "Whether presents, toys, alchohol or sweets – no one ignores Halloween today", he says.

But not only the toy industry welcomes Halloween in the slow run-up to the Christmas months. Decorative items sell like hot cakes around Halloween, as more and more employees, parents and sales people tend to decorate offices, homes, and shops with pumpkin lanterns, figurines of witches and chocolate fairies.

For the sweets industry too, Halloween has become an established event, and shops are filled with chocolate eyeballs and demonic looking fruit gums all over the country in early October. "We have taken on the Halloween trend", according to Haribo spokesman Marco Alfter.

Haribo's current product selection includes gums with names such as "Horrormix", "Vampire" and "Happy Hariween". "Halloween is, besides Christmas and Easter, the third main product season", according to Alfter. "Sales are going very well, and we have already sold a lot long before October 31", he says.

Great potential

In addition, numerous other branches have realized the potential in Halloween, including those which focus largely on producing items for carnivals. The world's largest producer of carnival goods based in central Germany, the Rubies Group, makes some 40 million euros annually with Halloween items, around 5 per cent of the yearly turnover. According to Theo Welbhoff from the Rubies Group, business with Halloween is going well, and could be increased with ease. Three to five percent growth is realistic, he says. Indeed, he says, it could come as far as to surpass the status of carnival – one of Germany's major festivities – bringing double digit earnings in the coming years.

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