I’ve always been a big fan of Halloween. When I was younger I dressed up (some of my most notable costumes included a hobo and a clown – my mother spray-painted my hair orange, and no you can’t see the pictures) and went from house to house putting candy in my pumpkin carrier, entering into an unspoken agreement with the homeowner (I won’t T.P. your house if you throw an extra snack-size Snickers in my bag). Now that I’m older I stay at home oohing and aahing at the miniature princesses and superheroes and greeting the teenagers (who are never wearing costumes) who show up at my door with suspicion (seriously, if you’re old enough to buy your own candy why are you trick-or-treating anyway?) but it seems like fewer trick-or-treaters show up at my door each year. Are kids no longer excited to dress up and get FREE candy?

Mintel’s most recent Holiday Shopping report seems to be showing a similar trend, as Halloween chocolate sales in the United States are expected to decline 9.1% in 2011, marking the fourth consecutive year of decreases for this segment. Moreover, 21% of parents who purchase holiday chocolate say they’re buying more healthy treats for their children than they have in previous years–suggesting that this sales slide won’t be letting up anytime soon. I know it’s important to teach your children healthy eating and snacking habits, but shouldn’t Halloween be the one day a year when pigging out on junk is okay?

Before you tear down the decorations, turn off the lights and pretend you’re not home (I always hated that house on the block that did this, I can hear your television through the door Mrs. Williams, I know you’re in there!) it’s not all bad news, as 76% of Americans bought chocolate to celebrate Halloween last year and 62% purchased non-chocolate confectionery goodies. The typical American household buys an average of five bags of seasonally-packaged chocolate for Halloween and spends a little over $22. I always end up spending more, as I like to have a little leftover candy for myself.

In the UK, the market for Halloween chocolate is still niche. In 2010, Halloween and other seasonal chocolate – such as Father’s day – was valued