Last week, the Sweets & Snacks Expo took over McCormick Place in Chicago for the final time before it calls Indianapolis its home starting next year, 2024. From May 23-25, thousands of manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, brokers, and exhibitors filled the halls to see what exciting innovations are coming to the sweets and snacks aisles.
We walked the floor, trying products from well-established brands to the new up-and-comers, to see what will be hitting the shelves soon. From chips to gummies, pickle juice to meat snacks, here are the 5 trends we saw on the expo floor.
1. Cross-Category Brand Collaborations
Collaborations galore! We saw everything from Honest Tea Gummies by Hershey’s to Sprite-flavored Tic Tac, and even a Goya & Hippeas Chickpea Puffs collaboration. As consumers long for nostalgic flavors, brands are partnering up to bring cereal and beverage flavors to candy or familiar candy flavors to snacks like popcorn. In the case of the Goya and Hippeas partnership, it seems like both brands are trying to reach a segment of consumers that isn’t typical for their specific brand. This collaboration could lead to an expansion of their audience.
2. Exploring Flavors Beyond the Basic
We’ve seen global flavors take over the snacking category and the general industry as a whole. Consumers today are more adventurous and are willing to try flavors that are new to them. As international cuisines gain popularity, some of that excitement is transferring over to the snacking aisle. This is evident in the Jerky and Meat Snacks subcategory with flavors like Korean BBQ and Umami, pretzel sticks with flavors like Mexican Street Corn and Thai Honey Curry, as well as potato chips that are salted egg flavored.
3. Better-for-You Expansion
We saw better-for-you trends continue to be top-of-mind for manufacturers, with Mentos debuting a gum with vitamins and Welch’s taking on the low-sugar trend with Zero Sugar Fruit Bites. This shows that conventional candy brands are also embracing the better-for-you wave. Meanwhile, brands like SmartSweets, Joyride, and Oomph continue to bring their innovative low-sugar candy to stores.
4. Speed to Shelf: End of the Cone
End-of-the-cone snacks, popularized by brands like Muddy Bites, have taken off. This truly speaks to the speed of innovation in the industry, as just a few months ago there were only one or two brands in the market. However, at this show, we saw many more brands release their version of this popular snack with different fillings and flavors beyond the classic chocolate like s’mores, cookies n’ cream, and strawberry.
5. Good For The Planet: Regenerative Practices
When talking about regenerative agriculture/dairy, much of the conversation has been dominated by milk, yogurt, or nut products. At Sweets & Snacks, however, a few snack brands like Cheddies and Airly are loud and proud about their regenerative practices. Cheddies, a cheddar cracker snack brand, uses cheese from certified regenerative organic farms, meaning the cheese comes from a farm that prioritizes soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. Meanwhile, Airly and their oat-based cloud crackers have a mission of reversing climate change through food. Their oats are grown on zero carbon emission farms, and in some cases, they are even carbon-negative through innovative farming practices.
6. From Hard Shell to Gummy
As we all know, gummies have been trending in the Vitamin & Supplements department, but they also continue to be a huge trend in the Candy department. At the show, we saw many familiar hard-shell candies introducing gummy versions, such as Skittle Gummies and Nerds Gummy Clusters. While in the Innovation section of the show, we saw up-and-coming brands like Rbel Bee showcase their Honey Gummies that are sweetened with honey and allulose.