Innovation reigns at Sweets & Snacks Expo: Butterfinger popcorn, cauliflower pretzels

admin | May 29th, 2018 - 5:32 pm

 

Sweet and Savory met this week at McCormick Place, and brought with them funky fun flavors such as honey sriracha, cauliflower pretzels and organic dried veggies and nuts smothered in salt and pepper.

The annual Sweets & Snacks Expo is where food manufacturers show off a smorgasbord of flavors in new products, with the hopes of enticing retailers to make room on their shelves. This year’s assortment featured 800 companies spread out over about 4 acres that were seeking a piece of what market research firm IRI says is a $25 billion treats market. The event isn’t open to the public.

Here are some of the trends that stood out:

Over-the-top treats reign. Among the newcomers: candy coated popcorn, like Nestle’s Butterfinger candy smothered over popcorn, or Reese’s Outrageous! Bar, with milk chocolate, Reese’s Pieces and the currently superhot candy ingredient: caramel.

 

Unusual flavor combinations are trendy. Winners of the expo’s innovation contest were snacks and sweets rich with flavor mixes. Three examples: Gone Rogue’s Chicken Bacon High Protein Chips, made with “quality cuts of chicken”; Hershey’s Gold Bar, a combination of salty, crunchy bits of peanuts and pretzels with carmel-flavored creme; and Combos’ Honey Sriracha snacks.

Healthy indulgences aim at the good/bad in you. You’re trying to be healthy, but you also have an urge to splurge. In an age of increased health consciousness, snack and confectionery makers are trying to satisfy those indulgences without the guilt.

Sahale Snacks’ fruit and nut mixes are some of the industry’s hottest sellers, as are anything made with chickpeas and other legumes, according to Larry Levin, executive vice president at IRI.

Hankering for salt but don’t want the wheat? You’ll soon be able to try From the Ground UP’s Cauliflower Pretzels, made with cassava and cauliflower. Craving pork rinds, but afraid of the fat? Southern Recipe offers gluten-free Blackberry Habanero Oven Baked Pork Rinds coated in sunflower oil. For cracker addicts, there’s In Season’s Crispy Trail Mix Crackers, made with mung beans, cashew nuts and raisins and then baked.

“It used to be sweet and salty, one or the other,” said Levin. “Now there’s a plethora of options for both.”

Store brands are on the upswing. Brands such as Target’s Archer Farms and Trader Joe’s are emphasizing better and fewer ingredients and organic snacks that fit in with the appetite for “healthy and natural” eating. The strategy is fostering brand loyalty: if Trader Joe’s Coffee Toffee Shortbread Cookies are your passion, you’re unlikely to venture to another store to find something that tastes similar.

“Some consumers don’t even know the difference between a retailer’s own brand versus a national brand,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, an executive vice president at IRI. “It’s appealing to consumers who want just a little bit more for themselves, and getting something that’s just a bit more high-end organic … because consumers love to treat themselves.”

Bringing impulse buys to online shopping. A staple of the sweets and snacks business has been impulse buys as you stand in the checkout line, giving in to that Snickers bar you’ve been eyeing. Euromonitor International’s Jared Koerten said fewer trips to the grocery store mean fewer opportunities for impulse purchases, even as online snack sales are exploding. “These changes are happening a lot faster than people realize,” he said.

At the show Tuesday, he was telling attendees to consider placing vending machines in grocery stores’ click and collect lockers, where consumers pick up orders placed online. Koerten also suggested asking online shoppers if they want extra items, such as a cookie, a nutrition bar or a soda as they check out.

Source:  chicagotribune.com, 5-29-18

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