The Sweets & Snacks Expo made its return to Chicago for the first time since 2019—just in time to celebrate its 25th anniversary. From May 24-26, thousands of manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, brokers, and exhibitors (and a plenty of fun mascots) filled McCormick place to see what exciting innovation is coming to the sweets and snacks aisles.
We walked the expo floor to get a peek at all the great products hitting store shelves soon. We also might have enjoyed a sample or three along the way. After filling our totes (and bellies) with some tasty treats, we identified 7 trends that dominated the show:
1. Unique Spicy Flavors:
If the samples we tasted on the Sweets & Snacks show floor are any indication, fans of spicy foods are going to be extremely happy (and need to keep a glass of milk nearby). And this year, we noticed more sweet options joining in the fun and offering more than just a generic “hot” option. We saw popcorn, chocolate, jerky, and gummies with spicy flavors like jalapeño, habanero, and chile.
2. Plant-based Gummies Are Booming:
For vegetarian and vegan shoppers, gummies are a frequent headache because they frequently contain animal-derived gelatin. Over the last few years, plant-based options have begun to pop up, and at this year’s show we saw more options than ever before. It’s clear that brands understand how many plant-based shoppers still want their favorite sweets—especially if their childhood brands don’t offer a suitable option. Katjes has been around for decades but has only recently brought its plant-based gummies to the U.S. Meanwhile, Vegobears is a recently launched product line that also boasts a variety of fun-flavored gummies free of animal products.
3. Global Flavors Enhance Classics:
Manufacturers are exploring more than just spices from around the world. They’re enriching products with flavorful ingredients like lemongrass and serrano. We also saw some brands replicating entire dishes into their better-for-you snacks, such as churro-flavored plantain chips.
4. Protein Remains King:
High protein diets, particularly keto, continue to prove their staying power as an enduring lifestyle and not a fad. Keto was one of the most popular label claims we came across on the show floor, popping up in everything from nutrition bars to popcorn to chocolates to chips.
5. Chips for Everyone:
6. Forms Keep Evolving:
Walking from booth to booth, we couldn’t help but notice how many products were a familiar snack but with enough of a twist to make them feel fresh. Take crispy fried mushrooms, which aren’t a jerky but not quite a traditional chip. Or plantain nuggets that can be their own snack or serve as a salad topper. See also: Upland’s freeze dried bites that make superfoods seem like something between a candy and a chip.
7. Ingredient Simplicity Is Here to Stay:
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