Sweets and Snacks Expo 2024: 10 Trends to Know

May 22, 2024
by SPINS Marketing

Discover the Latest Candy and Snack Trends

For four days, the minds behind the best candy and snacks could be found in the Indiana Convention Center. Sweets & Snacks Expo brought together nearly a thousand exhibitors ready to show off their latest creations along with 16,000 attendees—including retailers and suppliers—prepared to enjoy as many samples as they could. The SPINS team was there to walk every aisle of the show and meet the innovators whose products will soon be in everyone’s pantries, refrigerators, lunch boxes, and secret candy drawers.  

Here are 10 trends you should know about: 

1. Freeze Dried Candy

Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables have been healthy snack staples for many years, but candy is making a big, crunchy entrance. Sow Good is turning classic candies like sour worms and peach rings into freeze-dried treats. Bliss Life creates bite-sized candies with classic flavors, such as s’mores and caramel apple. 

2. Energy Bars

A cup of coffee starts the morning for many people, and an energy drink or soft drink gives a mid-afternoon boost. For anyone who would rather eat their caffeine quotient than drink it, a new wave of energy bars is here to help. Several bars at Sweets & Snacks touted their natural caffeine content in convenient, portable serving sizes that work as on-the-go snacks or pre-workout nutrition. Verb’s energy bars get their caffeine from green tea and are vegan and all-natural, and each bar is the equivalent of one espresso. Meanwhile, Quantum Energy Squares derive their caffeine from green coffee beans and use plant protein.  

3. Fruit Bars

Shoppers can’t always get their daily servings of fruit, but that’s getting a bit easier thanks to some nutrient-focused snack bars. These brands emphasize simple ingredients that make fruit a convenient snack when you want something other than produce. That’s it. fruit bars are made entirely with real fruit, and are free from preservatives, added sugar and. Plus, they are free of the top 12 allergens, plant-based, non-GMO, and gluten-free. South Forty’s fruit bars are also made entirely with real fruit and avoid preservatives and concentrates.  

4. Peanut Butter Gets a Makeover

Peanut butter might be the quintessential pantry staple, but it’s still enjoying its own makeover. Dr. Peanut’s peanut butter comes in a range of flavors, from Brazilian chocolate to condensed milk to white chocolate coconut. Nerdy Nuts adds their own twist with unique flavors, including Taco Bout Choco and Merry Little Cheesecake. These new takes on a classic meant to be enjoyed in sandwiches, as snack toppings, or just by the spoonful. 

5. Protein on the Go

Although plant-based products continue to pop up in every department, meat snacks are in no danger of going away. Plus, their popularity is buoyed by their strong presence in convenience stores. We encountered a wide variety of jerky and meat snacks (such as cubes or sticks) in an exciting array of flavors from brands, including Chomps and Space Rocket Jerky. Beef, turkey, salmon, bison, elk, venison—you could find it in teriyaki, smoked, chili lime, buffalo, and more. These grab-and-go proteins are just as convenient for someone trying to hit their macro targets as they are for someone who wants a filling snack during the workday.  

6. Plant-Based Evolution

Plant-based products have made a splash in the dessert and snack market over the last several years, and they continue to find new opportunities to expand. Plant-based jerky is not just trying to be a meat alternative; brands like Theo’s are offering their own take with beet and sweet potato options. Zing Bars are plant-based protein bars that pride themselves on being developed by nutritionists and ranging in flavors from dark chocolate cherry to oatmeal chocolate chip to dark chocolate coconut.  

7. Spicy Everything

Think of any sweet or snack you like and there was probably a spicy version of it somewhere on the show floor. Wicked Cutz had a Volcanic Jalapeño jerky. Julio’s Freakin’ Hot Chips lived up to their name. Jovy’s We Are Spicy collection included chili-covered lollipops. This love of spice might be in part due to the popularity of the YouTube series “Hot Ones,” which had its own snack mix collaboration with Snak Club. 

8. Australian Confections

If the line to sample Australian licorice from brands likeDarrell Lea is any indication, consumers are embracing the heartier version of the classic candy. The famous Tim Tam chocolate biscuit and Violet Crumble chocolate bar left a big (and crunchy) impression on attendees. Whatever Australia is exporting, candy lovers seem to be enjoying it. 

9. Popcorn With a Twist

While we saw classic packaged popcorn like cheese and buttered as well as unique updates with a variety of spices and flavors, we noticed many brands are letting the snacker take charge. Bad Monkey popcorn comes in a mix of flavors (i.e., kettle corn, caramel, buffalo wing) but it stands out for its “heat n’ eat” packaging. Although the popcorn is already popped, you can put the entire bag in the microwave or on the grill to heat it up as many times as you’d like—and the compostable bag will stand up to repeated heating. Kernel Season’s lets you add more than a dozen flavors to your own home-popped popcorn. You can choose from garlic parmesan, pumpkin spice, dill pickle, and many more.  

10. Legacy Brand Innovation

Some of the biggest and most recognizable brands are still finding ways to reinvent the classics. Ferraro handed out samples of their new Tic Tac Chewy candies, which haven’t hit shelves yet. Meanwhile, Kellanova was showcasing Pop Tart Crunch Poppers, which are the snack version of their toaster pastry. 

And if that wasn’t enough, you can learn even more about what’s happening in the candy space. SPINS hosted the “Perspective on Confectionary” webinar with Alice Mintz, Director, Solutions Architect, and Joseph Overall, Solutions Architect. They dig into data to reveal the insights and trends shaping the candy landscape, including growth patterns, consumer preferences, and emerging opportunities for brands. Watch here.