(Vienna, VA) -- The Easter Bunny will be busy filling baskets with kids’ favorite goodies this spring throughout the United States, from Rabbit Center, Texas to Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. It is a tradition that most families participate in - according to a survey conducted by the National Confectioners Association, nearly 90 percent of adults said they give Easter baskets to their children.
What will be in those baskets this year? Lots of traditional items such as jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow chicks and cream-filled eggs. Parents ranked chocolate bunnies as the number one item to place in an Easter basket, followed by jelly beans. In fact, more than 90 million chocolate bunnies and more than 16 billion jelly beans will be made for the season.
Tucked in alongside the traditional candies, lucky kids also will find novelty candies – goodies that double as toys. Examples include cartoon character candy dispensers, battery-powered lollipop holders and chirping chicks with a little sack of jelly beans attached. The novelty candy segment overall has grown nearly 70 percent in the past five years, according to candy industry sales data.
“What could be more fun than candy you can play with and then enjoy?” asks NCA President Larry Graham. “Candies that have ‘play value’ are extremely popular - kids love to show them off and play with them with their friends. They are the perfect gift item to add to an Easter basket.”
Where did the Easter basket tradition originate?
The tradition was brought to American shores by German families in the 1700s. In place of baskets, children set out their caps or bonnets, filled with straw, and were delighted to find colored, hard-cooked eggs nestled inside them in the morning. By the 1800s, candy was commonly tucked into the baskets, as well.
The Easter Bunny evolved from a number of traditions, some dating back thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, the rabbit was recognized as a symbol of fertility and renewal – a belief that traveled to Europe in the Middle Ages where it became entwined with the symbolism of eggs as a symbol of fertility and rebirth during springtime. It became natural, centuries later, for these symbols to turn up in our Easter baskets as chocolate bunnies and egg-shaped candies.
“Candy has been a special food of celebrations for thousands of years,” notes Graham. “Today, we have hundreds of fun candy items to choose from in all sizes, shapes and flavors made just for Easter. It’s almost as much fun creating an Easter basket for someone special as it is to enjoy the treats inside!”
“Best of all, eaten in moderation, candy can fit any healthy, active lifestyle.” All types of candy, he notes, contribute less than three percent of total calories to the American diet.