Image of the Sweets and Snacks logo used for a show recap

5 Takeaways From The Sweets & Snacks Expo 2021

image of Scott Dicker, data analyst for SPINS

As SPINS' Marketing Data Analyst and Trade Show Insider, Scott covers the latest trends and insights within the Health and Wellness Industry. 

As we wrap up The Sweets & Snacks Expo in Indianapolisthe first in-person trade show SPINS attended in over a year and half, we can reflect on what has happened and where we are going from here.  The ‘new normal’ is used frequently and redundantly these days, and if you are trying to adjust to a ‘new normal’, you are already behind because we all need to be thinking of the next big changes already in motion.  That means aligning your digital and physical shelves to make a seamless transition to meet your customers wherever they are at a given time.  You must be ahead of the health and wellness curve by having the latest and ‘next’ big product trends available, even before your customers are asking for it. This show reminded me and all of us who attended that some things will return to familiarity even while we are adjusting to the future.  Without further delay, here are five of my big takeaways from the 2021 Sweets and Snacks Expo in Indianapolis. 

Deep Dive:
What to Seek and Avoid in Sweets & Snacks

1. Shows are back!

The first day was a little awkward as everyone was unaware of how to interact with each other. Do you shake hands with your contacts who you’ve gotten to know over video this past year and are meeting for the first time in person?  What about hugging your industry friends that you’ve had close relationships with over the years?  We got to know their home offices and saw their kids and pets breakup meetings, yet there was certainly an initial hesitancy initially seeing people live.  It was probably a mixture of social rust, not knowing the other peoples comfort level, and trying to navigate the show recommendations for mask wearing, social distancing, and sampling.  Nevertheless, after that initial awkwardness, people got comfortable quickly.  By day two of the conference, it was almost like old times.  You could feel the energy and enthusiasm of brands debuting new products, finally getting to see initial feedback up close.  There were meetings being made, networking, and even some excellent happy hours to socialize.  It is clear now, that if the country stays on course, trade shows are back and will remain a major part of the industry going forward. 

2. Gummies Lose the Sugar

Gummy candy was in high demand at this years show.  The data backs up that this trend is still outperforming the overall candy category as candy with a gummy product type are up 5% cross channel over the last 52 weeks.  The big trend was low sugar and plant-based within gummy candy.  Some brands that I enjoyed were Project 7, which had only 3 grams of sugar and uses allulose, a growing popular sweetener.  Sour gummy candy continued to trend as well with Project 7’s sour worms. Another brand that we found in the innovation aisle was Pink Panda. Their Astro Blasters also used allulose to reduce sugar and capture the keto crowd.  Going forward, allulose will continue to be used to reduce sugar in the candy category and we expect it to move beyond the ‘sugar candy’ segment and into the entire candy category. 

3. Keto Is Everywhere

Gummy candy wasn’t the only segment to ditch sugar and go after the keto fans.  The promotion of keto friendly was on full display across the candy, salty snacks, and meat snacks segments. Some other candies that were highlighting their ability to fit into a low carb, keto lifestyle were new Wiley Wallaby licorice with only one gram of sugar, using another natural sweetener, stevia, which has continued to be used as a prominent sugar replacement in products like Lily’s as well. They showcased their new white chocolate bars in both the cookies and crème flavor, as well as the original.  The more obvious keto positioning came from candy like Kiss My Keto and cookies like High Key, both utilizing keto labeling.  The brand Keto Pint branched out from ice cream to make keto friendly chocolate bars in different flavors.  My favorite one to try was the Mint Chocolate bar. The entire line had no sugar added. 

4. Jerky and Cheese Crisps Are on the Rise

One of the trends that we have been watching for a few years at SPINS has been the rise of cheese crisps as a low carb savory snack option.  This trend checks a lot of the boxes: it’s naturally high in protein, low in carbs, and makes a great addition to a healthy snacking regimen.  One of the original cheese crisp makers, Sonoma Creamery, released a new flavor, ‘Everything Cheddar’ as well as a new product that blends pork rinds with their cheese crisps.  Other jerky innovations were chicken chips from Gone Rogue and Stryve Biltong.  We also saw cheese crisp innovations like croutons from Shrewed Food and more bars from Just the Cheese.  Meat and cheese snacks will continue to highlight their inherent nutritional advantages of being high protein, low carb. We know that plant-based alternatives will make adjustments, but there is certainly staying power in the meat and cheese savory segment. 

5. Natural Continues to Go Mainstream

It’s been amazing to see how natural attributes continue to gain mainstream attention.  The biggest case yet was the release of an organic Reese’s cup. Not only is it organic, but also rainforest alliance cocoa and made using antioxidant rich dark chocolate.  Core natural attributes like Fair Trade were also heavily on display. A great innovation that we saw was oat milk chocolate from Endangered Species as we continue to see oat as a preferred plant based alternative to dairy milk crossing all categories. 

Other Quick Takeaways:

With so many vendors and a treasure trove of exciting developments on the expo floor, there is more to talk about than we can fit in one post. But we wanted to make sure we mentioned some other innovate products that we want to highlight from the show: 

  • Papa’s Pops – skinless popcorn that was very flavorful and none of the issues getting stuck in your teeth! 
  • Samai Rainforest Root Crisps – A blend of Cassava and Yuca, these alternative chips were delicious. My favorite flavor was the sweet chili. 
  • Nib Mor – 42 calories per square and with cacao nibs blended in! I really enjoyed the tart cherry dark chocolate. 
  • Dream Pops – A really unique innovation on frozen desserts.  These novelties are plant based and including unique flavors and functional ingredients.  I loved the the vanilla matcha and chocolate lion (with lion’s mane mushroom) flavors. 
  • Honey Acres – Dark chocolate patties filled with honey.  I had not seen a product like this before.  A very unique way to use honey.  There were only three ingredients in the cup I tried: pure honey, dark chocolate, and peppermint oil.  Talk about a clean label. 
  • Garrett Popcorn – A delicious staple here in Chicago, so I tried a matcha flavored popcorn that did not disappoint! 
  • YumEarth – Their new Choco Yums use fair trade chocolate, and I love how they always highlight that they are major 8-allergen friendly. 


What to Seek and Avoid in Sweets & Snacks

In preparing for the Sweets & Snacks show, our experts used SPINS' attribute data
to uncover what consumers are seeking and avoiding in these categories.

Plus, they found 29 brands consumers are seeking that will be at the show.

Ready to see what other insights SPINS has to offer? We'd love to help you get started.