In the past decade, the sweets and snacks industry has undergone a health and wellness makeover with paleo, organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, allergy-friendly and fair trade products beginning to dominate to meet consumer demand.
This year, I attended the National Confectioner’s Association (NCA) briefing with Susan Whiteside, Vice President of Public Relations & Marketing Communications at NCA, as a participant of Mom Blog Tour Sweets & Snacks Expo (#MomBlogTourFF) on behalf of Wendy’s Bloggers. During this session, we got the inside scoop on what’s new and next for sweets and snacks.
The Sweets & Snacks Expo is a private event where snack companies present their new products to the industry retailers, buyers, movers and shakers. Over 800 exhibitors attended this year’s expo where brands are recognized for innovative new products with industry awards and have the opportunity to learn from each other and experts in the snack industry. This special behind-the-scenes peek into the Sweets & Snacks Expo was, well, a real treat!
According to NCA, current trends in the snack industry are:
- artisan salts
- big, bold flavors
- ingredients that challenge your perception of what treats and snacks really are
As we toured the expo, it was easy to spot the trends, especially the big, bold flavors in everything from sriracha chocolates to blackberry habanero pork rinds.
Sea salt with caramel seems to be a continued fan favorite but unexpected flavor combinations like chocolate with waffle bits were prevalent. Unusual ingredients took center stage, too, like cricket flour crackers, avocado oil popcorn, and cauliflower pretzels.
Another obvious trend in the snacking industry is power packing in protein to help meet the needs of the healthy-conscious, gluten-free, keto and paleo snacking audiences. Plant-based products are also popping up to help fuel this category.
Each year, industry experts help select awards for innovative new products. This year’s coveted “Best in Show” award went to Bakery Petites Double Chocolate Cake Delights (Hostess Brands) for having the best overall score from the panel of judges.
Top awards for the best innovators in each of the nine categories at the Sweets & Snacks Expo were given to:
- Chocolate – Hershey’s Gold Standard Bar (The Hershey Co.)
- Non-Chocolate – Big Chewy Nerds (Nestle USA/Ferrara Candy Co., Inc.)
- Salty Snacks – Tangerine Vanilla Cashew-Macadamia Glazed Mix (Sahale Snacks)
- Sweet Snacks – Organic White Chocolate Mini Peanut Butter Cups (Justin’s)
- Novelty – Warheads Dippin’ Ring (Impact Confections, Inc.)
- Savory Snacks – Trail Mix Crackers (Alli & Rose)
- Gourmet/Premium – ParmCrisps Trios Original (That’s How We Roll)
- Gum/Mints – Cool Tropical Tic Tac Gum (Ferrero U.S.A., Inc.)
- Seasonal – Rocher Golden Heart for You & Me (Ferrero U.S.A., Inc.)
If you are looking for some new snacks and sweets to love, you certainly want to start with these award winners!
Another trend in the snack industry is tailoring snacks for eCommerce. As more and more customers turn to online shopping and delivery for their grocery needs, snack companies need to address this style of shopping.
In an industry where snacks and sweets are often an impulse buy at the cash register, how will consumers want to see these products displayed online? Snack companies are working on having their products fully accessible online and offering mindful snack options with genuine ingredients and smaller on-the-go packaging sizes for consumer convenience.
In recognizing mindful eating, the snack industry is also working on a project called the Always A Treat Initiative. This initiative aims to provide consumers with more information, options and support to help allow them to enjoy their favorite treats as part of a happy, balanced lifestyle.
Over the next five years, 90 percent of the companies participating have committed to modifying their products to have calorie information printed on the front of their packaging. Half of the participating companies are committed to develop individually wrapped products that will be available in 200 calories or less packages. You can learn more about the project at AlwaysATreat.com
There’s definitely a lot going on behind-the-scenes in the snacks industry which will translate into healthier versions of products and no shortage of innovative options! Learn more about what’s new and next for sweets and snacks at www.candyusa.com