The 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo was one of the biggest yet with almost 800 exhibitors (200 new ones) and more than 17,000 attendees. All there to see the latest innovations and developments in the candy and snack industry. There were a record number of start-up brands this year with new products including pistachio brittle, mushroom chips, and boozy desserts. Many traditional brands introduced product launches that featured unique twists on traditional flavors.
Before we get into the trends we saw at this year’s show, here are a few interesting candy facts, courtesy of the National Confectioners Association (NCA):
• Most Americans treat themselves to candy two or three times a week—averaging 40 calories a day.
• Candy is big business—confectionery items account for $35 billion in retail sales—that includes $2 billion in exports, and a hefty $7 billion in seasonal sales.
• The industry employs 55,000 people in the U.S. directly—extend that to packaging, agriculture, retail, transportation and other fields, and candy accounts for more than 400,000 U.S. jobs.
With candy being such huge business in the snack industry, It’s important to stay current on the newest insights, flavors and products. Here are a few highlights we saw at this year’s expo:
While we’ve seen the combination of sweet flavors in salty snacks, those same flavor profiles are making their way over to the sweet side. We saw a lot of new products that added heat to traditionally sweet flavors like honey or chocolate. The sweet balances out the hot, spicy or tangy flavors to give a more complex flavor profile. While we’ve seen hot candy in the past with Red Hot and Fireballs, these new products are experimenting with different heat sources mixed with different sweet sources.
As usual in the candy industry, flavor trends typically start with newer food brands and then move up to more traditional candy companies bringing in new products with these flavors. We are seeing that with the sweet heat trend.
As in years past, snacks with familiar or nostalgic flavors are still popular. This year in particular, birthday cake flavor was seen in several new items from gum to candy to popcorn.
The vegetable chip category is booming with a 17% increase in sales in the past year. With more and more companies getting involved in this category, interesting flavors are the key to differentiating new products. This year saw mushroom chips with unique and bold flavors.
Although you might think marshmallows are a pretty basic and boring snack, there were a ton of new product variations of the traditional treat. Lots of all-natural versions with interesting and gourmet flavor options.
According to Printpack Inc., 66% of polled consumers admitted to making a purchase at retail simply because the packaging caught their eye. Different formats, bright colors, unique designs, transparent packaging that shows the product and interesting textures are all packaging techniques that can help your product stand out on a crowded shelf.
A long-time favored fat among healthier eaters, coconut oil is being found in more and more snacks. Lots of popcorn, potato chips, and other savory snacks were found with the coconut oil ingredient featured.
A trend we’ve seen for years on the savory snacks side, protein can now be found in many different sweet snacks. It was featured in many different candies and ice creams as a benefit that consumers are searching for.
One of the major themes for this year’s event was centered around a recently announced initiative by NCA and a handful of leading candy companies to provide greater transparency, portion control and consumer education over the next five years. Details include:
• By 2022, 50% of the individually wrapped products made by the participating companies will come in sizes containing 200 calories or less per pack.
• Within the next five years, 90% of the companies’ best-selling treats will have calorie information on the pack front.
• Also over the next five years, the AlwaysATreat.com website will grow and share resources for consumers to better fit candy and snacks into their healthy lifestyles.
The organizations, with the help of Partnership for a Healthier America, plans to monitor and share progress with the rest of the industry.