CHICAGO — Sprouted mung beans and lotus root crisps are among the new formats competing for shelf space in the grocery aisle. Puffed quinoa is appearing in chocolate bars, portabella mushrooms are masquerading as jerky, and cabbage is replacing grain in pretzels and tortilla chips.
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“Unusual ingredients, I think, is a bit of a trend all the time,” said Carly Schildhaus, public affairs manager for the National Confectioners Association (N.C.A.), Washington, which produces the annual event.
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An estimated 15,000 industry professionals are expected to attend the trade show, held May 21-23 at McCormick Place, to see and taste new smoothies and snacks first from approximately 825 exhibiting companies.
Together, accounting for more than $86 billion in annual U.S. sales, the snacks ($51 billion) and candy ($35 billion) markets are measured as the second and fourth largest consumable categories, respectively, according to data from the N.C.A. Product innovation is key to driving continued growth in the candy and snack industry. New products represent nearly 5% of sales in the snack category and more than 6% of sales in the candy category, which compares to about 3% of sales for overall packaged goods.
“There are always thousands of new products debuting at the show, and there are many different things we see in terms of flavors and the products themselves, but what we think is really exciting is the industry leadership as it relates to. help people manage their sugar intake,” Ms. Schildhaus said. “You will see a lot of products in smaller package sizes, especially package sizes of 200 calories or less … I think we will see it more evident this year than in recent years.”
As consumers move away from a traditional diet mindset in search of holistic wellness, brands previously labeled as “thin,” “skinny” or “skinny” are embracing new descriptors, such as “smart.”
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Debuting in Sweets & Snacks is the Smart Tart, a better take on the toasted pastry. Smart Food Co. L.L.C., Costa Mesa, Calif., offers a range of flavors, including acai blueberry, strawberry chia and cinnamon, with 8 grams of protein, 180 calories and 50% less sugar than the average brand, according to the company.
SmartSweets, Vancouver, B.C., is expanding its portfolio of reduced-calorie candies with Peach Rings gummies. Sweetened with stevia, the product contains 85% less sugar than traditional candy with no artificial ingredients. Like all other SmartSweets products, including gummy bears, sour gummies and sweet fish gummies, each serving contains 3 grams of sugar and 80 calories.
Susie’s Smart Cookie, Katonah, N.Y., produces breakfast cookies and bites that contain omega-3 fatty acids from canola, walnut and flaxseed oils, as well as oats, dried fruit and eggs.
Soda stars in several new candies. American Licorice Co., La Porte, Ind., is debuting Sour Punch Bites featuring cherry, lime and cola flavors that can be mixed and matched to create new combinations. The company is also introducing Red Vines root beer and orange cream licorice bites. Orange soda flavors appear in new Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish chewy candy debuts from Mondelez International, Inc., Deerfield, Ill.
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Other innovations at the show offer new ways to consume coffee. From the creators of Dippin’ Dots, 40 Below Joe, Carbondale, Ill., features frozen pearls of coffee and dairy-free cream in a range of flavors, including French vanilla, hazelnut, salted caramel, mocha and house blend. Tierra Nueva Fine Cocoa, Miami, is debuting Nudge Coffee Butter, a dish made entirely from Italian coffee beans.
The flavors are being prepared in products such as layered matcha cream wafer cookies and a chocolate chai bar.
From Kopper’s Chocolate, Jersey City, N.J., On the Rocks Chocolate cordials have a liquid scent inspired by libations like vodka and tequila. Covered in dark chocolate, the non-alcoholic bites are available in Moscow mule, cold-brew coffee, barrel-aged bourbon and strawberry margarita varieties.
Brewery Legend from Mount Franklin Foods, L.L.C., El Paso, Texas, is a range of flavored nut blends inspired by craft beer and flavored with hops. Unique Pretzel Bakery, Inc., Reading, Pa., offers original sourdough artisanal beer pretzel rings made with malted barley and hops.
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The meat snacks category is expanding with new formats and flavors as brands aim to stay competitive in the crowded market.
Biltong is booming. Air-dried, South African-style meat snacks appeal to consumers’ desire for convenient, high-protein, low- or no-sugar foods. Several exhibitors, including Stryve Foods, Plano, Texas; Ayoba-Yo, Springfield, Va.; and Kalahari Biltong, Cambridge, Mass., focus exclusively on biltong production, while others are adding it to their product lines. Chef’s Cut Real Jerky, Naples, Fla., is introducing biltong in the original and spicy chili flavor, with 26 grams of protein and zero sugar.
Meat snack companies can also be differentiated by texture. DE.HI Foods, Honolulu, offers crispy beef and pork jerky that “eats like a chip,” according to the company. Land O’Frost, Munster, Ind., recently introduced Gone Rogue, a crispy snack made with chicken that has been smoked, sliced, baked and seasoned.
But another take on the premium jerky trend is the new vegan variety made with ingredients like mushrooms or fruit. Upton’s Naturals, Chicago, is introducing Jerky Bites made with wheat seitan in several flavors, including tamarind pepperoni, pineapple pink pepper and tarragon ginger lime. Each serving provides 8 to 10 grams of protein and 90 to 100 calories with a texture and chew similar to that of traditional beef jerky, according to the company.
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Food manufacturers are launching convenient food and beverage products positioned around the popular ketogenic lifestyle. In Sweets & Snacks, exhibitors offering nutrition bars formulated for high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets include Kiss My Keto, Los Angeles; Dang Foods, Berkeley, Calif.; Riverside Natural Foods, Vaughan, Ont.; and Love Good Fats, Toronto.
These products are loaded with oils, nuts and seeds to help consumers achieve ketosis, a metabolic state linked to weight loss and performance benefits. Low-calorie sweeteners such as erythritol, stevia and monk fruit are key to keeping sugar low.
Fat Snax, Brooklyn, N.Y., makes low-carb, sugar-free cookies in flavors like double chocolate chip, peanut butter, chocolate chip and lemon.
HighKey Snacks from Summit Naturals Inc., Blaine, Wash., is a brand of savory and sweet snacks marketed as low-carb and keto-friendly. Products include crunchy cheese bites made with cheddar and egg whites, bite-sized dark butter cookies made with macadamia nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, chia and pumpkin seeds.
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“We’re seeing what we’re calling ‘new takes on classics’… if that’s a line extension… and also reimagining some old favorites,” Ms. Schildhaus said.
Boyer Candy Co., Altoona, Pa., maker of the Clark Bar, is launching Clark Cups, peanut butter cups that embody the signature brand of the century-old chocolate bar.
Boyer, which produces the Mallo Cup, bought the rights, recipes and equipment to the Clark Bar brand in 2018 after its former owner, The New England Confectionery Co., filed for bankruptcy.
Anthony Forgione, president and chief executive officer of Boyer, said: “We are very excited to bring the Clark name back to the state of Pennsylvania, as well as give a new twist to the classic candy.
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Chick-O-Stick from Atkinson Candy Co., Lufkin, Texas, features an updated recipe with simple ingredients and more peanut butter. The product, characterized by its flaky, crunchy combination of peanut butter and toasted coconut, dates back to the 1940s. Atkinson said he removed artificial red and blue dyes in favor of colors derived from turmeric and concentrated vegetable juices.
The Hershey Co., Hershey, Pa., is debuting a new design for its namesake milk chocolate bar for the first time in its 125 years with the launch of its limited edition Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Emoji bars.
“Our classic Hershey bars were designed to be shared with others,” said Kriston Ohm, Hershey’s senior brand manager. “By adding an emoji design to each chocolate bar, we hope parents and kids are inspired to share a chocolate emoji and make a connection with someone new.”
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Take a trip to the supermarket, and you will immediately come to the realization that the supermarket shelves are saturated in an absurd number of different snacks. But what to choose? Among such a vast number of selections are snacks that people continue to buy time after time until they become classics. These are the beloved treats we decided to show-from M&Ms to Garlic potato chips, these snacks probably represent at least one of your favorite foods.
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