Sweet Innovation Means Smarter Snacking

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Sweet Innovation Means Smarter Snacking

By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ - 05/24/2017

As snacks evolve into meals and sweets come under scrutiny by consumers looking for healthier eating options, food manufacturers have responded with solutions for a changing world.

That innovation was on full display this week at the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo, hosted by the National Confectioners Association at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

There’s certainly plenty of indulgence still to be had, but the industry’s leading candy makers have been keeping wellness top of mind. For example, Mars Chocolate aims “to help drive responsible consumption,” says VP of Customer Experience Shaf Lalani, by promoting candy as a treat rather than an everyday snack, offering “sharing sizes” with prominent on-pack markings and aiming to make at least half of its single-serve products 200 calories or less within five years.

Other efforts include diversification, such as Hershey’s acquisition of the Krave meat snack brand, which is launching new jerky varieties and meat-based bars boasting dried fruits, nuts and high protein content. Meat snacks in general continue to show healthy growth.

To be sure, the latest new products on display at this week’s gathering reflect a wide variety of on-trend formats and ingredient mashups.

Here’s some of the concepts I saw during my visit to the expo:

- Meat snacks for breakfast: Bacon and sausage in a.m. flavor profiles like maple syrup

- “Thins” and “bites” versions of traditional snack items

- Chips made from whole grains, brown rice, matzo, chickpeas, seaweed, fruit and vegetables

- Flavored popcorn

- Clean labels: non-GMO, free-from, organic

- Ethnic flavors

- Chocolate with freeze-dried fruit, probiotics, cold-brew coffee, nuts, chia seeds and other so-called superfoods

- Candy-cookie mashups

The oddest product I sampled during my all-too-brief one day at the expo? Mesquite-flavored cotton candy. It smelled like my shirt after an evening sitting by a campfire. Can’t say it tasted much better.

View photos and videos from the Sweets & Snacks Expo on Progressive Grocer’s Facebook page.

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