CHICAGO — As the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo celebrated its silver anniversary in May, the many innovative new offerings and category trends seen on the show floor came together to send a single message: the next 25 years may be even better.
Weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain difficulties and other challenges, the candy and snacks industry has proven it is resilient, evolving, and an evergreen source of enjoyment and indulgence for consumers.
Nearly 700 exhibitors and roughly 16,000 attendees filled 4.5 acres of candy and snack innovation at the annual event, which is hosted by the National Confectioners Association (NCA) and was held May 23-26 at Chicago's McCormick Place. A wide range of products were on display from chocolate to non-chocolate, gum, mints, and sweet and savory snacks.
"There's no better way to celebrate this milestone anniversary for the Sweets & Snacks Expo than in Chicago with the full industry on display," said John Downs, president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association. "Throughout its history, the show has served as a launch pad for new products and companies, and brought new ideas to the forefront of the candy and snack industries. I am proud of the work we have done to make the Sweets & Snacks Expo the premier trade show for the candy and snack industries, and I can't wait to see what the next 25 years of innovation looks like from these dynamic and resilient categories."
Even during this period of inflation and rising fuel prices, which has prompted consumers to tighten their spending, candy and snacks are in a relatively strong position as many shoppers view them as affordable indulgences. Because of this, there was no lack of creativity seen from the supplier companies exhibiting on the expo floor.
What should convenience store retailers consider stocking in their stores in the near future? Some of the top trends on display at the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo included:
Mega-spicy is a hot trend, with everything from potato chips to meat snacks to ready-to-eat popcorn adding a heavy dose of heat. Takis, which made a name for itself in the spicy snack market with its rolled tortilla chips, has extended the brand to other product types. Meanwhile, Pringles teamed up with hot sauce-themed talk show "Hot Ones" for a new line of Scorchin' chips. Plenty of other brands are also kicking up the temperature. Intensely sweet or sour flavors were widely available, too.
Consumers won't have to make their own s'mores this summer as s'mores-themed treats are gaining popularity. While demand is sure to be high during the summer due to the strong association with the season, the NCA expects a variety of s'mores items to remain popular throughout the year.
Candy and snack consumers haven't turned their backs on indulgence, but there is a solid and growing base of shoppers who appreciate and actively look for better-for-you products and items made with clean ingredients. The expo floor showcased cleaner versions of established treats, such as Red Vines Made Simple, which are non-GMO and use cane sugar, and packaged meat snacks made with grass-fed beef. Additionally, research from IRI indicates that while plant-based snacks do not yet appeal to the masses, they are gaining penetration and increasing sales.
Consumers want more of their favorite classic treats, but they also want more than the same old, same old. Thus, suppliers are offering them fresh and innovative twists on items they already know and love, combining the comfort of familiarity with the excitement of something new.
Because everyone enjoys their treats differently, and consumers have changed up their snack patterns over the past few years, candy and snack suppliers are offering a wider range of package sizes. Smaller options cater to those who just want a quick, small treat, while larger units and multipacks cater to those who want to stock up or share.
The 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo will be held May 22-25 in Chicago.