Six Trends Unwrapped at 2016 Sweets & Snacks Expo


CHICAGO — The National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) 2016 Sweets & Snacks Expo wrapped up last week, but not before unwrapping the latest innovations in both candy and snacks.

Here are the six top trends spotted on the expo floor by Convenience Store News editors: 

1. Simple ingredients

There was a noticeable rise in products boasting “pure” or “all-natural” ingredients. One example is the introduction of Old Wisconsin’s Natural Cut hardwood-smoked snack sticks, a gluten-free alternative snack that is also free of nitrates, artificial ingredients, preservatives, binders, fillers and MSG.

Another example is Buddha Bowl Foods’ Himalayan Pink Organic Popcorn, which vows that it's made from “ingredients as pure as the Himalayas.” The product is gluten-free and its ingredients list includes only three items: non-GMO popcorn, organic extra virgin coconut oil, and Himalayan salt.

2. "Healthier" products 

Some new products are targeting consumers who still want to indulge, but are looking to do so a little "healthier." For instance, Jelly Belly showcased its organic jelly beans and fruit snacks, while The Hershey Co. highlighted its Simply 5 Syrup that health-conscious consumers can pour atop their favorite ice cream flavors.   

3. Bites, barks & thins

Also along the lines of better-for-you, bites, barks and thins were more prominent at this year's show.  

Described as a “revolutionary, edible coffee treat,” Krispy Kreme Coffee Thins infuse the doughnut chain’s signature coffee into chocolate thins. Varieties include Caramel Macchiato, Original Glazed, and Cappuccino.

barkTHINS is another product seeking to elevate snacking by infusing nuts, seeds and fruits baked right into the chocolate. The product is available in seven flavors. 

Meanwhile, taking advantage of the bite-size craze are Hershey Bites, Epic Jerky Bites, Pinkberry Bites, Twix Bites and Hot Tamales Licorice Bites. Some brands, like goodnessknows bars and Snickers Crisper, feature two and four pieces of bite-size fun, respectively. 

4. Kitchen-inspired flavors

Kitchen-inspired flavors like pumpkin, fiery spices and international tastes are making their way into candy and snack items. Cinnamon, sriracha and chimichurri packed a punch on the expo floor, while coffee, espresso and cappuccino flavors made their presence known, too. 

5. Seasonal & occassion-based marketing

In addition to events-related tie-ins with Super Bowl and summer blockbuster movies, Mars Chocolate North America representatives discussed the "fifth season" (alongside Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas), which takes place between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Company representatives said this "fifth season" is wide open for promotional opportunities.

Mars also shared further research into its "Transaction Zone Vision," the result of a research-driven approach to driving incremental purchases across all products that are typically found at the checkout. Mars and Wrigley found that shoppers have three primary mindsets: refresh, reward and remind. By merchandising to properly fulfill these mindsets, retailers can boost their incremental sales.

Along with its seasonal efforts, The Hershey Co. spotlighted its promotion of occasion-based treating. Its "Hello Happy. Hello Hershey’s" campaign is founded on the idea that happiness is a choice and Hershey's products can facilitate sweet, intimate and personal moments of happiness.

Hershey also showed off the new lettering of its Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar logo, which is changing for the first time in its 122-year history in honor of the company's sponsorship of the 2016 Summer Olympics Games.

6. Jerky, jerky, everywhere

It seemed like you couldn't walk down one aisle of this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo without running into a jerky supplier's booth. 

New flavors from Perky Jerky (Pale Ale turkey jerky) and from Oberto (Teriyaki Beef Jerky) provided further proof that jerky brands are showing no signs of slowing down.

Format innovation was also seen, alongside flavor innovation. Case in point: The Hershey Co.’s KRAVE jerky brand will bring KRAVE bars to store shelves beginning in August. Available in four flavors — Chipotle Cherry, Cranberry Thyme, Mango Jalapeno and Wild Blueberry Barbeque — the bars combine dried fruit and quinoa with turkey, beef or pork to create a sweet and savory profile. The all-natural protein bars are gluten free and free from nitrites and lactic acid.

Jack Link’s not only showcased a variety of new flavors (Korean BBQ, Sweet BBQ and Whiskey Glaze, to name a few), but the company also debuted its Lorissa’s Kitchen jerky brand, which launched in March. The “farm-to-table” brand is more of a “lifestyle brand,” a company representative told CSNews. While the traditional Jack Link’s brand targets males and the classic jerky lover, Lorissa’s Kitchen focuses more on female consumers and those looking for a refined jerky experience.

Lorissa’s Kitchen protein snacks utilize all cuts of beef, pork and chicken responsibly, and are available in four varieties: Korean BBQ, Sweet Chile, Ginger Teriyaki and Szechuan Peppercorn. 

The 2016 Sweets & Snacks Expo took place May 24-26 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

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