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Exciting Trends Emerge From Sweets & Snacks Expo

CPG companies are making moves with new formats, nostalgic flavors and more
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
Reese's Medals
Reese's Medals are among Hershey's new formats for the upcoming season.

New flavors, formats and experiences were on full display at this week’s National Confectioners Association (NCA) Sweets & Snacks Expo. Trends ranging from spicy snacks and freeze-dried candies to nostalgic flavors and veggie-forward options abounded at the show, which was held in Indianapolis from May 14-16.

“The candy and snack categories have always been on the cutting edge of innovation, as the entire food industry looks for inspiration from the trends found at the Sweets & Snacks Expo,” said John Downs, NCA president and CEO. Each year, the show is host to a community willing to fully embrace the spirit of innovation, which is a net positive for everyone: Manufacturers flex their creativity, retailers surprise shoppers throughout the store, and – of course – consumers benefit from a wide range of choices in the candy and snack aisles.”

[RELATED: How Are Shoppers Noshing on Confections?]

NCA identified several trends at this year’s event, including innovative new products to celebrate the big four seasons and a variety of package size options, multisensory experiences with unique textures and flavor combinations, as well as social media buzz.

Other trends from Sweets & Snacks include:

New Formats of Old Favorites

What’s old is new again this year, with a number of innovative products focused on giving classic favorites a facelift for the next generation. Ferrara, for example, is introducing Lemonhead Ropes, a soft, punchy version of the classic hard candy, while Hershey has unveiled Reese’s Medals, which serve as a tie-in to the upcoming Summer Olympic Games.

Mars Wrigley has served up a number of innovative new formats of some of its steadfast favorites, including both M&M's Peanut Butter Mega and M&M's Peanut Butter Minis, as well as Skittles Littles and Hubba Bubba Mini Gum. As has Kellanova, which debuted its Pringles Mingles at the show, which are an innovative first for the company and promise a crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside melt-in-your-mouth tasting experience.

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Muddy Bites
Muddy Bites is among the companies adding classic, nostalgic flavors to its products.

Nostalgic Flavors

Gen Z in particular is looking for nods to the past with comforting, nostalgic flavors. That trend was on full display at Sweets & Snacks, especially with a bevy of products sporting Girl Scout Thin Mints cookie flavor inclusions. Muddy Bites, purveyor of bite-sized sundae waffle cones, has a Thin Mints version made with a mint chocolate mini cone and dark chocolate filling. 

Mars Wrigley is packing on the nostalgia with its new Hubba Bubba Mini Gum in Skittles Original Flavors, which is among the show’s Most Innovative New Product Awards winners. Additionally, Just Born is poised to roll out its Rice Krispies Treats Flavored Peeps nationwide for the next Easter holiday. The flavor, which was exclusive to Walmart this year, proved so popular that the company is making it part of its permanent lineup.

Environmentally Friendly Moves

CPG companies are becoming more cognizant of their environmental footprints, with many choosing to move toward compostable or recyclable packaging, and others using more plant-based ingredients. Katje’s Gummy Candy, for example, is made with all plant-based ingredients and includes zero animal gelatin. 

Irvins, meanwhile, which makes crispy salmon skin snacks dubbed “pork rinds of the sea,” has found a way to upcycle parts of the fish that aren’t otherwise used. Uglies Kettle Chips are making a similar move, being crafted from potatoes with slight imperfections such as minor blemishes or the wrong sugar content. 

Ginger People
Functional treats and ginger shots from The Ginger People were on display at the Sweets & Snacks Expo.

Functional Frenzy

A desire for functional, better-for-you snacks is still omnipresent in the industry. The Ginger People, known for its stomach-soothing ginger chews, has launched ginger chewable tablets and ginger lozenges for digestive relief, as well as ginger shots to aid digestion, energy, inflammation and immunity.

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The 72 Chocolate Collection, meanwhile, has bars and bites that include the superfruit baobab, which boasts a number of vitamins and nutrients. Protein snacks are another sought-after item, and Todd’s Better Snacks offers Egg-Cellent Protein Puffs that are made with egg whites and include 12 grams of protein baked into every serving.

Healthy caffeine options also sparked interest at the show, including Quantum Energy Squares, which promise smooth, steady energy with no spike or crash.

New Spins on Savory, Sour and Spicy

While sour candies and savory snacks are no strangers to the Sweets & Snacks show floor, a number of products showcased the power of sour, the draw of spice and new facets of savory flavors. Think pineapple cotton candy with chamoy, mushroom-based snacks full of umami flavor, or sour freeze-dried snacks that pack both a pucker and an exciting new texture.

Two additional Most Innovative New Product Awards winners fit well into this trend, including Nomad Snacks’ Ramen Popcorn, as well as PepsiCo Foods’ Doritos Dinamita Smoky Chile Queso. Seapoint Farms, known for its roasted edamame snacks, has introduced new flavors to its lineup, including Dill Pickle and Sweet Chili.

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