As is the tradition at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, which opened last night in Chicago, the annual Most Innovative New Product Awards was held this year in the majesty of the Marriot Marquis Ballroom, adjacent to McCormick Place, the venue for the event for its last outing in the city.
Presented with aplomb by Elise Fennig, the NCA’s Chief of Staff & Senior Vice President of Operations, with judge Sally Lyons from market research company Circana, the awards recognise the year’s most innovative confectionery and snack products and honour the companies that make them.
As in 2019, when the brand made its debut, Tru Fru won two significant awards this year in the Sweet Snacks category for its Parfait Poppers: Nature’s Raspberries Frozen Fresh in Greek Yogurt & Granola; and the 2023 Gourmet/Premium Candy accolade for its Nature's Strawberries Hyper-Dried Fresh in White & Dark Chocolate.
Originally a start-up from Salt Lake City and barely six-years-old, Tru Fru’s ascendency in the 'permissible indulgence' space has been, well, truly exceptional, and has not gone unnoticed in the industry, not least by Mars Incorporated, who bought the brand at the end of last year for an undisclosed sum.
Kopper’s Mexican Hot Cocoa Bites
Kopper’s Mexican Hot Cocoa Bites are the latest in a long line of innovations from the brand that was established in New York City 85 years ago and recognized throughout the world for leading in the development of gourmet chocolates.
The brand was acquired by Nuts.com in 2016 and is still a third-generation family-owned and operated business and is now located in Cranford, New Jersey.
Kopper's Chocolates spokesperson David Braverman said the company was very proud of the award. "We have been innovating since 1937. Mexican Hot Cocoa Bites are aimed at all consumers, from kids to adults. We knew it tasted really good, but we were still a little surprised to win the award. It was developed over six months and is available in stores now."
John Downs, President and CEO of the National Confectioners Association – host organisation of the Sweets & Snacks Expo - said: “Recognising and celebrating innovation in the confectionery and snack categories is a vital part of our show, because innovation is the key driver of the industry in terms of setting trends and appealing to consumers,”
“These new products, brand collaborations, and flavours enhance consumers' celebrations, holidays, and daily routines and they ensure that candy and snacks continue to play an important role in the lives of people around the world.”
Retail leaders representing 85% of the buying power for the confectionery and snack categories served as judges across the 13 categories that comprise the Most Innovative New Product Awards.
ConfectioneryNews was granted a sneak preview of the more than 300 candy and snack products that were submitted for judging in what turned out to be a hotly contested competition.
The winners are on show in the Featured Product Showcase at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, which begins in earnest today for three days of sampling, networking, tasting and deal-making at a sell-out event that is back to full business or the first time since the Covid pandemic.
The criteria for the products submitted for the awards were that they must have been developed over the past year and will be available to consumers in the coming months.
The Most Innovative New Product Award Winners are:
• Best in Show: Chunk Nibbles - Apple Cinnamon Chunk Nibbles
• Small Business Innovator: Jackson's Chips - Farmhouse Ranch Sweet Potato Chips made with Avocado Oil
• Chocolate: Nuts.com/Kopper’s Chocolate - Mexican Hot Cocoa Bites
• Non-Chocolate Candy: Shenzhen Amos Sweets & Foods Co., LTD - 4D Fruit Gummy Juicy Burst Strawberry
• Gum & Mints: Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc. - Mentos Fruit Mints with Vitamins - Cool Fruity Mix
• Salty Snacks: Big Dipper Food Company - Peanut Butter Caramel Coated PopCrunch
• Sweet Snacks: Tru Fru LLC - Parfait Poppers: Nature’s Raspberries Frozen Fresh in Greek Yogurt & Granola
• Meat Snacks: PepsiCo Foods - Jack Link's Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Beef Jerky
• Savory Snacks: Truly Good Foods - Henrietta Said Ancho Kimchi Flavored Peanuts
• Novelty/Licensed: Shenzhen Amos Sweets & Foods Co., LTD - TastySounds™ RecordableLollipop – Peach Nectar
• Seasonal: Hawaiian Host LLC - Strawberries & Cream White Chocolate Macadamias
• Gourmet/Premium | Candy: Tru Fru LLC - Nature's Strawberries Hyper-Dried Fresh in White & Dark Chocolate
• Gourmet/Premium | Snack: Oh Snap! Pickling Co. - Cranberry Sweeties