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Sweets & Snacks Expo 2023 Explores Playful Side of Innovation

Brand collaborations and flavor mashups are among the trends showcased.
Danielle Romano
SSE 2023

CHICAGO — The 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo (SSE) was abuzz with excitement as the premiere showcase for innovation for the confectionery and snack industries kicked off in Chicago for the 26th consecutive year.

More than 800 exhibitors, 250 new exhibitors and nearly 18,000 attendees filled more than 210,000 square feet of innovative sweet, salty and sour products at the annual event, which is hosted by the National Confectioners Association (NCA).

Despite a continued period of inflation that is driving consumers to tighten their spending, many shoppers continue to view candy and snacks as permissible, affordable indulgences. With that in mind, there is no lack of creativity seen from the supplier companies exhibiting on the expo floor. 

Some of the trends spotted at the 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo include:

  • Brand collaborations — Favorite treats/brands are working together to develop new and exciting opportunities.
  • Flavor mashups — Flavor combinations delight consumers as salty, sweet, sour, spicy and savory are combined in innovative ways that surprise and delight consumers.
  • Social media-friendly interactive treats Treats give consumers permission to play with their food and share their experiences on social media.
  • All about options — Confectionery and snack companies are offering a range of package sizes and product types that fit every occasion.

"The Sweets & Snacks Expo continues to be a significant driver in flavor and product trends for the confectionery and snack categories, enhancing our retail attendees' ability to delight their shoppers," said John Downs, president and CEO of NCA. "Attendees of this year's show will be among the first to sample and experience these new trends, helping them stay one step ahead of their competition."

This year's expo also marks the final time the annual expo will take place at McCormick Place in Chicago before moving to new host cities. Beginning in 2024, the Sweets & Snacks Expo will cycle through a rotation of two years in Indianapolis followed by one year in Las Vegas until 2032. 

"This year is an important inflection point for the Sweets & Snacks Expo, as it is the show's final year in Chicago. For more than 25 years, we have worked in collaboration with the city of Chicago to build and host the world's premier candy and snack show," Downs said. "The value that the Sweets & Snacks Expo brings to confectionery and snack companies is incredibly important and it contributes in a major way to the success of these two great categories."

Innovation Honored

As the event does every year, the Sweet & Snacks Expo held its Most Innovative New Product Awards ceremony, recognizing this year's most innovative confectionery and snack products and the companies that created them.

Retail leaders representing 85 percent of the confectionery and snack categories' buying power served as judges across the 13 categories that comprise the Most Innovative New Product Awards.

More than 300 candy and snack products were submitted for judging this year. The products submitted for the awards were developed over the last year and will be available to consumers in the coming months, according to NCA.

The winners of the 2023 Most Innovative New Products Awards are:

  • Best in Show: Chunk Nibbles — Apple Cinnamon Chunk Nibbles
  • Small Business Innovator: Jackson's Chips — Farmhouse Ranch Sweet Potato Chips made with Avocado Oil
  • Chocolate:'s Chocolate — Mexican Hot Cocoa Bites
  • Nonchocolate: Shenzhen Amos Sweets & Foods Co. Ltd — 4D Fruit Gummy Juicy Burst Strawberry
  • Gum & Mints: Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc. — Mentos Fruit Mints with Vitamins – Cool Fruity Mix
  • Salty Snacks: Big Dipper Food Co. — Peanut Butter Caramel Coated PopCrunch
  • Sweet Snacks: Tru Fru LLC — Parfait Poppers: Nature's Raspberries Frozen Fresh in Greek Yogurt & Granola
  • Meat Snacks: PepsiCo Foods — Jack Link's Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Beef Jerky
  • Savory Snacks: Truly Good Foods — Henrietta Said Ancho Kimchi Flavored Peanuts
  • Novelty/Licensed: Shenzhen Amos Sweets & Foods Co. Ltd — TastySounds RecordableLollipop – Peach Nectar
  • Seasonal: Hawaiian Host LLC — Strawberries & Cream White Chocolate Macadamias
  • Gourmet/Premium|Candy: Tru Fru LLC — Nature's Strawberries Hyper-Dried Fresh in White & Dark Chocolate 
  • Gourmet/Premium|Snack: Oh Snap! Pickling Co. — Cranberry Sweeties

"Recognizing and celebrating innovation in the confectionery and snack categories is a vital part of our show because innovation is the key driver of the industry in terms of setting trends and appealing to consumers," said Downs. "These new products, brand collaborations and flavors enhance consumers' celebrations, holidays and daily routines, and they ensure that candy and snacks continue to play an important role in the lives of people around the world."

The 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo is being held May 22-25.

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