Halloween Candy: What you need to know before you shop.


Spooked at the thought of shopping for Halloween candy? GoodGuide can help.

Are all those super-sized bags of miniature chocolates, rolls of sweet tarts, sacks of candy corn, and lollypops by the dozen taunting you in the supermarket aisles? Us too. If the sheer number of choices isn’t enough to make your eyes glaze over, then the minuscule list of cryptic ingredients certainly is: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil; Citric Acid, Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Corn Starch, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Colors (Red 40 Lake, Titanium Dioxide, Blue 2 Lake)…

Don’t despair. GoodGuide’s 1,187 candy ratings and our candy buying guide can help you better understand the health and environmental issues so you can narrow your choices and delight those Trick-or-Treaters with purchases that reflect your values.

An Overview of the Issues

Several social and environmental issues come into play around chocolate, the #1 candy choice for Halloween, so we’ll focus on the issues related to cocoa cultivation. Grown close to the equator in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, cocoa is a global commodity. The most important impacts associated with cocoa cultivation include:

  • Child and slave labor — Wide ranging human rights abuses and exploitation, including child trafficking and child and slave labor particularly in West Africa, are still a common problem in cocoa production.
  • Traceability and fair pricing — Companies rarely purchase cocoa from farms directly. Cocoa is mostly grown on small family farms, which rely on a complex series of intermediaries to transport the crop to processors. Chocolate is also a multi-ingredient product containing cocoa components such as cocoa butter and cocoa solids as well as other components, all potentially coming from a variety of sources. Because product traceability is difficult, farmers often don’t have the ability to maximize their crop’s value, and commodity prices paid can be far lower than market value.
  • Ecological impacts — Older crops produce less yield, resulting in farmers using additional pesticides to keep production high. Cocoa also grows best when under a protective shade canopy of a tropical forest.
  • Health — With respect to the health benefits of chocolate, most products are made with sugar, milk, and several other additives – the dietary problems associated with the sugar and fat content of candies will compete with the potential health benefits of the anti-oxidants in cacao.

GoodGuide’s recommendation: Look for these product certifications that ensure the chocolate has been produced under industry leading labor and environmental conditions:

1931_FairTradeCertifiedUSAChocolateThe Fair Trade Certified™ Label guarantees consumers that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product. Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the U.S. for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, flowers, sugar, rice, and vanilla. TransFair USA licenses companies to display the Fair Trade Certified label on products that meet strict international Fair Trade standards.

rainforest-alliance-certified-seal-164by147Product environmental rating indicates whether a product is Rainforest Alliance Certified. Under the auspices of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), an international coalition of leading conservation groups, the Rainforest Alliance works with farmers to ensure compliance with the SAN standards for protecting wildlife, wild lands, workers’ rights and local communities. Farms that meet these rigorous standards are awarded the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.

1936_FairForLife2Product environmental rating indicating whether a product is Fair For Life certified. “Fair for life” is a brand neutral third party certification program for social accountability and fair trade in agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations. The Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification Programme offers operators of socially responsible projects a solution for objective inspection and certification by a highly qualified external verifier. It combines strict social and fair trade standards with adaptability to local conditions.

1271_CertifiedUSDAOrganicCertified USDA Organic indicates that a product is produced using organic methods or made with organic ingredients. Organic farming systems rely on ecologically based practices such as cultural and biological pest management, exclusion of all synthetic chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones in crop and livestock production. Certification is conducted by entities that have been approved by the US Department of Agriculture, using national standards that define organic production.


How We Rate Candy

Our scientific ratings range from 0 to 10 — the higher the score, the better the product.

Our summary rating combines product- and company-level information reflecting a product’s health, environmental and social impacts. The best products rate 8 or above; the worst rate 4 or below. We also provide sub-scores for Health, Environment and Society:

  • Health ratings for candy are based on the nutritional value of the food. We use a standard method of nutrient assessment called the “Ratio of Recommended to Restricted Nutrients” (RRR). The RRR calculates the ratio of “good” to “bad” nutrients to provide an overall picture of a food’s nutrition profile. For most types of food, the list of recommended nutrients includes protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. The list of restricted nutrients includes calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and sodium. For more on how the RRR is calculated and scored, see GoodGuide’s Food Methodology.
  • Environment and Social scores are assigned to candy by combining product-level environmental indicators with company-level environmental indicators. We look at these relatively comprehensive certification programs: FairTrade, USDA Organic, Rainforest Alliance, and Fair For Life. Our summary Environmental scores and Social scores are then weighted 50% product-level and 50% company-level.

You can learn more about how we rate candy and other products on GoodGuide’s Ratings page.


Our Top Picks

Now that you understand our ratings system, here are our top five highest rated candies:

Peanut Butter Cups
G/G Score: 7.6

Equal Exchange Organic
Dark Chocolate Minis
G/G Score: 7.4

Equal Exchange Organic
Milk Chocolate Minis
G/G Score: 7.3



YummyEarth Organic
Gummy Bears
G/G Score: 6.7

Endangered Species Organic Milk Chocolate Bug Bites
G/G Score: 7.2


Candy Alternatives

Of course, candy is not the only treat you can hand out this Halloween. Here are some alternatives that are sure to please the neighborhood ghosties and ghouls:

Clif Bar Mini
Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch
G/G Score: 7.9

Luna Bar Minis,
G/G Score: 7.9

Snickers, Marathon Low Carb Energy Bar, Peanut Butter
G/G Score: 7.6

Hannaford Seedless
G/G Score: 7.4

Sunrich Kettle Valley
Fruit Bars
G/G Score: 7.2


We hope you’ve found this information helpful. Good luck with your shopping and have a safe and happy Halloween!

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