Sweets & Snacks Expo: Treating Consumers with Innovation

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Sweets & Snacks Expo: Treating Consumers with Innovation

By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ - 05/31/2016

What seemed to generate the most buzz leading up to and during this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo?

It had to be the Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups, which ended up winning Best in Show at the annual trade show this past week in Chicago, hosted by the National Confectioners Association.

And really, what a cool way to bring two legacy products together. Think of the ad message: “Hey, you got your Reese’s Pieces in my peanut butter cup …” They’re due out to stores in July.

Hershey displayed other innovations as well, including the continued expansion of its upscale Brookside line, carrying the exotic flavors of its fruit, nut and chocolate mixes into a bar. In the latest melding of sweet and savory that Hershey terms “snack-fection,” the Brookside Dark Chocolate Tablet Bars include varieties such as Blueberry Almond with Acai, Cranberry Almond with Blood Orange and Mango Coconut Crisp.

Also from Hershey: a larger-format Kit Kat Big Kat Bar; Lancaster Soft Crèmes caramels; Cadbury Premium Chocolate Pouches, featuring individually wrapped tasting squares; Hershey’s, Payday and Mr. Goodbar Snack Bites; and Hershey’s and Reese’s Snack Mixes.

Meanwhile, Mars Chocolate North America boosted its upscale Dove line by adding nuts to its chocolate-enrobed fruits, in Raspberry & Honey Roasted Almond, Strawberry & Cocoa Almond, and Blueberry & Vanilla Cashew.

Other new releases from Mars: Twix White, a white chocolate-enrobed version of the cookie bar; Snickers Crisper, which adds crispy rice to the chocolate-nut-caramel favorite, available in 100-calorie portions; M&M’s Red, White and Blue for the summer; and a host of other annual seasonal versions of the company’s marquis brands.

Mars and sister company Wrigley displayed their front-end merchandising strategy, which aims to boost impulse sales and checkout for retailers as sales become further fragmented among multiple competing channels. The partnership has established a proportioned allocation of candy, fruit, beverages, publications and other nonfood items to create an “emotional equilibrium” for shoppers looking to satisfy specific needs.

For its part, Wrigley continues to build on its Starburst and Skittles brands, rolling out Starburst Gummies in Original and Sour, in resealable standup pouches; and Skittles America Mix for summer. Other Wrigley releases: the tooth-whitening Orbit White gum; new, bigger 35-stick cases of Extra gum; and a real sugar version of its legacy Doublemint chewing gum.

Also among sweets and savories at the show:

- Brownie Brittle sampled its new organic line and offered a sneak peek of its soon-to-be released bark line, Thindulgent, in milk and dark chocolate varieties combined with good stuff like almonds, caramel and pretzels, along with a s’mores version.
- Deep River Snacks showed off its new Honchos line of tortilla chips; my favorite is the Peach Habanero (who else even has that?).
- Flowers Foods is expanding its Mrs. Freshley’s line of snack cakes with peanut butter varieties of its cupcakes and brownies.
- Lisa’s, by German company Aroma Snacks GmnH, is a great line of organic kettle-cooked potato chips, including a very authentic-tasting Rosemary & Sea Salt variety.
- Snyder’s-Lance married sweet and spicy in a new peanut bar, offering 9 grams of protein.
- Ferrara Candy Co.’s Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears and Sour Heads
- Just Born Inc.’s Hot Tamales Licorice Bites, along with further extensions to its popular Peeps line of marshmallow chicks.
- Airheads Xtremes Sourfuls by Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc.
- DeMet's Flipz Caramel Sea Salt Chocolate Covered Pretzels 
- Golden Cannoli’s Original Cannoli Chips
- Naturally Homegrown Foods’ Hardbite 18 Carrot Gold Carrot Chips
- Beanfields Jalapeño Nacho Bean and Rice Chips
- Popchips Ridges (enjoyed these at Expo West)
- Hungry Buddha Smokin' Sriracha Coconut Chips from Temple Lifestyle
- Bare Snacks Baked Crunchy Cinnamon Banana Chips
- Stride Revolution Melo Peach and Spearmint by Mondelez International
- And a few more meat snacks I omitted from my previous dispatch: Chef’s Cut (love their sriracha bacon jerky), Perky Jerky (grabbed a sample of their new Brewmaster’s Pale Ale turkey jerky), Hatfield & McCoy Bacon Jerky Spicy Revenge by Caribe, and Blackjack Beef Jerky in Original and Spicy.

Follow show coverage on Twitter at @pgrocer and @jimdudlicek