When I politely turned down a fifth sample of beef jerky in as many minutes, the brand rep at the booth gave me an understanding nod. “We’ve all got to pace ourselves at the show!” she said brightly. Too bad I had already failed to heed that advice within minutes. After all, the Sweets & Snacks Expo rewards one’s endless curiosity and, by extension, a bottomless appetite.
For the uninitiated, the Sweets & Snacks Expo is the biggest annual event for makers of candy and snacks everywhere. The idea is that professionals on both sides (the makers and the retailers) can come together and figure out which products to foist upon the American consumer in the coming year. As such, free samples are the name of the game, and I walked away with a shopping bag full to bursting with them.
This year’s Expo features 800 exhibitors (250 of them first-timers) and will see a projected 16,000 attendees, a figure that certainly sounds right, given how often I was squeezing past groups of fellow lanyard-wearers just to snag a sample of cauliflower puffs or candied cashews. Earlier this month, the National Confectioners Association, which hosts the Expo each year, published a list of key trends to look out for at this year’s event:
- Brand Collaborations: Your favorite treats/brands working together to create something new and exciting.
- Flavor Mashups: Flavor combos that will delight you. Salty, sweet, sour, spicy or savory – there is something for everyone!
- Social Media Friendly Interactive Treats: These treats give you permission to play with your food and share with your friends on social media!
- All About Options: Everyone treats and snacks a little differently, which is why confectionery and snack companies are offering a range of package sizes and product types that fit every occasion.
All of the above trends were certainly on display, especially the “range of package sizes” thing: Hostess Kazbars, as we’ve discussed, will be sold in two different sizes for different snacking occasions, and Christopher’s Big Cherry candy bar will now come in a not-so-big Bites bag as well. But we clocked several other emerging trends as we wandered the hall’s 210,000 square feet of displays. Here are the top five candy and snack trends you can expect to see in 2024 and beyond.