In a wide-ranging talk to a packed auditorium in the Expo’s Divine Theater, Laughter got straight down to the specifics regarding what flavors are driving candy and snacks.
Fruit flavors are still top across all snacking categories with 'tropical varietals adding a premium twist', she told the audience.
“What’s really cool about fruit is it’s almost like a never-ending funnel of innovation because there’s always a new fruit coming into the US to try,” she said.
She gave an example of Yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, which has seen significant growth in the US in the past 18 months.
“Raspberry has been having a phenomenal run in snacking over the last couple of years,” she told attendees. “Consumers rated raspberry as significantly more premium and indulgent when compared to all other berry flavors."
Snacking is a varied category, she said. “You go from meat snacks to granola bites to plant-based jerky to puffed chickpeas. Pretty much snacking has been defined as whatever you view as a snack. And the flavor trends that go with that are just as varied.”
In this space, and in this time, we have all these different flavor trends, even the ‘Instagrammable classics … aren’t just the classics anymore she said. “Because consumers instead of vanilla want Tahitian vanilla. And instead of chocolate, you’ll see Belgian chocolate, Dutch chocolate, hazelnut chocolate. Something a little different.”
Using another popular analogy, she described flavors as being like ‘your favorite boyband’, everyone has one, or a favorite song, from The Monkees to One Direction, they go out of fashion and then come back in perhaps with a new format to appeal to a new generation.
They are masters, she said, of creating unforgettable experiences, and that is what flavors can do for consumers.
“What was once exotic is now very much mainstream, and that time becoming exotic to mainstream is shortening,” she said. “It was only a few years ago that mango was pretty exotic, and now you can go through a drive-thru at McDonald’s and buy a mango drink.”
Consumers are looking more for premium experiences, she said. “Raspberry is on the rise as a top flavor in sugar confections and sweet cookies, up 300% and 400%, respectively, in new product launches over the past two years in North America.”
Look out for ‘on trend’ dragon fruit snacks. Sweet, snappy and vibrantly pink, dragon fruit demand is up 40%, and consumers rate it as ‘fun and exciting’ and ‘absolutely Instagrammable’, according to the latest research.
Laughter also identified spicy and hot snacking as ‘where it’s at’. “There’s a 33% increase in hot and spicy flavors in the US snack product launches since 2016. Look to lime and mango and pineapple for top fruit pairings” she said.
As a pro tip she recommended introducing floral flavors to consumers, by pairing them with familiar fruits. “Notice with hibiscus, it’s often paired with orange, watermelon, berries and grapefruit,” she said.
“The top categories for spicy fruit combinations are sugar confections, salty snacks and meat snacks. Think about the next generation of innovation. Think about these new tropical fruits coming in or even these new citrus fruits like yuzu; those could one day replace the lime, mango and pineapple as your next phase of innovation,” she concluded.