Live from Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago

Candy trends take spotlight at industry event

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

Adventurous flavors in the premium segment include Limoncello chocolate from Baci Perugina
Adventurous flavors in the premium segment include Limoncello chocolate from Baci Perugina

Related tags Snacks expo Confectionery Chocolate Nca

At the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago, new confection and snack products on display reflect what flavors, ingredients and categories candy consumers are hungering for.

The event, produced by the National Confectioners Association (NCA), gives snack and candy companies a chance to preview new products to the store owners, retail buyers and other professionals looking for a taste of what’s hot, and what’s to come.

“There are a lot of new and exciting flavors exploding all over at Sweets and Snacks Expo,”​ Larry Wilson, vice president of customer relations for the NCA, told ConfectioneryNews. “From walking around the exhibits and browsing through the New Product Showcase, you get a sense of what consumers are excited about.”

High-end chocolate

With all signs pointing toward the global economy coming out of the doldrums, chocolatiers are coming out with an increasing number of premium-positioned chocolate bars, with snazzier ingredients and higher price points than the supermarket checkout standbys. Chuao Chocolatier (Booth 1794), for example, has broadened its roster of adventurous flavor combinations with the Pop Corn Pop Bar, which marries milk chocolate with puffed grains, toasted corn chips, sea salt and popping candy. Baci Perugina (Booth 174) has expanded its line of gourmet chocolate bars with classic Italian flavors such as Limoncello.

Let’s get small

Downsizing (whether in the interest of satisfying smaller appetites, serving diet-conscious consumers or simply being adorable) is a frequent theme in new products this year. Among the most notable: Hershey (Booth 1505) has launched Kit Kat Minis, unwrapped miniscule versions of its chocolate-and-wafer bar poured into a flexible pouch.

Rival Mars (Booths 1013, 805) hopes to hit it big by going small with Snickers Bites and Milky Way Bites; under its Wrigley (Booth 813) umbrella, the company is also offering Starburst Bites and Lifesaver Bites.

starburst minis
Mars-owned Wrigley serves up smaller offerings of Starburst and Lifesavers in share bags

Hot stuff

Consumers and retailers alike have a hankering for spicy treats, whether they come from the sweet or the savory end of the spectrum. Jelly Belly (Booth 837) now offers Tabasco as one of its jelly bean flavors. Additionally, the American Gourmet Group’s (Booth 1485) Chipotle Dark Chocolate Bar imparts chocolate with a spicy, smoky flair.

Jelly Belly Tabasco landscape
Spicing things up: Jelly Belly exhibits new Tabasco beans

Season’s greetings

Reflecting consumers’ growing interesting in treating themselves and loved ones around the holidays, the Sweets and Snacks Expo show floor boasts a large number of sweets in holiday shapes, poured into packaging with Christmas, Halloween and Easter colors. Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. (Booth 537) has launched a number of new products for Valentine’s Day in heart shapes, Mars is launching Twix fun-size bars nestled inside Easter eggs, and Demet’s Candy Co. (Booth 429) is showing multi-packs of its Flipz chocolate-coated pretzels that are suitable for trick-or-treaters.

Seasonal displays: DeMet's Candy Company exhibits Halloween Flipz pretzels

New traditions

With an increasing number of consumers concerned about sustainably grown ingredients, interested in exploring new flavor territories, and diagnosed with food allergies (such as celiac disease), new ingredients and flavors are showing up in confections and snacks. Quinoa, a grain that’s been making an appearance in snack chips for the past few years, is starting to show up on the sweet side of things—one such product is I Heart Keenwah’s (Booth 1093) Chocolate Sea Salt Quinoa Clusters.

The Sweets and Snacks Expo runs through Thursday, May 22. To keep track of more news and trends at the show, keep visiting and follow @ConfectioneryNw on Twitter.

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