Courtesy of Olson Communications

The energy at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago in May was a remarkable contrast with business professionals scurrying around the show with bags of samples and the sparkle of excitement in their eyes at almost every booth. This is the annual show with its finger on the pulse of mass consumer wants—in flavors, textures and delivery methods (packaging and promotion).

Tried and True Brands with New Energy
Some of the biggest brands in candy demonstrated that a great brand can be constantly refreshed with line extensions that are on-trend with today’s consumers. Favorite brands like Milky Way® and SNICKERS® turned into bites, M&M’S® were embedded in a milk-chocolate candy bar, Twix® added a savory/salty peanut-butter layer and dark-chocolate Dove® beguiled with a swirl of mint.

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Big Flavor Palates
Sweet, salty, sour and hot flavors were found throughout the show in delicious and sometimes unexpected forms. Jelly Belly is a company to watch when it comes to flavor innovation to create an experience. The hot feature flavor is popcorn, said to be reminiscent of the theatre experience. Also featured was a glamorous jewel collection—high-end flavor that is impervious to hard times; a princess collection targeting young girls; for the connoisseur, the Ultra 20 gift box.

Indulgence with a Conscience
Organic, Fair Trade and sustainable offerings were featured in virtually every aisle of this show from major manufacturers and artisan boutique companies. Handcrafted specialties made from time-honored traditions traded on the trust with customers that they would never compromise on the way their products are made and delivered.

Classics Take New Forms
Traditional favorites like brownies transformed into brownie brittle with rich brownie flavor and the crunch of a cookie.

Thin is in—from dark-chocolate-coated pretzel thins to ultra-thin chocolate bark.

Malted milk balls are an old-fashioned candy store staple that were seen in a rainbow of colors from pastels to rich jewel tones, allowing the candy store to offer an of-the-moment color selection.

Delicious Energy
Consumer interest in instant energy drives the category, and lots of new contenders are featuring delicious ways to grab that kick in indulgent treat form. Java gum fights drowsiness with caffeine. Conscious caramels have superfood ingredients. Functional chocolate was available to energize or calm the consumer.

Wellness Is Inescapable
At a recent conference on kids and healthy eating, a presenter quipped that if we could chocolate-coat broccoli, kids would love it. At this show, there was no need for the chocolate coating thanks to the many delicious veggie snacks including veggie poppers, skinny sticks and peeled fruit snacks.

The classic potato chip was seen as almost a vintage icon at this show where many chips were made of ancient grains and a wide range of root vegetables. Falafel chips were offered in original, spicy and za’atar flavors. Seaweed takes another inherently healthful product and turns it into flavorful roasted chips in flavors like sesame, olive oil and wasabi. All of the hot new ethnic and American regional flavors were evident in various incarnations of this salty crunchy snack.

Nuts have gained a following as a healthy snack alternative. Besides the traditional, pistachios sampled were flavored with salt and pepper and with sweet chili, giving a healthful snack a whole new kick. The new nut at this show was the hazelnut, touted as the new “miracle nut” imported from the Black Sea region of Turkey.

Next year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo will be in Chicago, May 21-23. For more info, visit www.sweetsandsnacks.com.

Chicago-based Olson Communications, since 1988, has specialized in offering personalized, uniquely crafted marketing communication strategies for food-business clients based in the United States and abroad. To be on the forefront of trends at foodservice tradeshows nationwide, follow Olson Communications’ observations in real time at https://twitter.com/OlsonComm.

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Caron Golden

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Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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