Decadence and Differentiation (Slideshow)

Craft brands permeate Sweets & Snacks Expo, while legacy players innovate

CHICAGO -- The footprint of high-end, craft and natural confection at the annual Sweets & Snacks Expo continues to grow, reflecting the ongoing consumer desire for affordable luxuries. Meanwhile, legacy candy brands had their R&D teams working at full throttle to deliver a wide array of new extensions on perennial favorites in time for the show. All these trends and their reflective products will appear on convenience-store shelves in the year to come. 

Among the flavor trends identified by show host National Confectioners Association (NCA) were:

  • Deliciously decadent. Truffle oil, imported salts and browned butter add taste and texture to a wide variety of decadent candy and snacks introduced at the expo this year. Indulgent categories have been on the rise for a few years, fueled in large part by the innovation snack makers have applied to new product launches. Look for more all-natural products in store aisles, as well.
  • Have your cake and chocolate, too. From whoopie pie to banana creme pie, this year candy and snack makers found inspiration from dinner's sweet, final course. For those who prefer to drink their desserts, attendees found a variety ranging from beer-themed chocolate and chewy candies to cherry cola, macchiato and crème de menthe flavored treats.
  • Coconut is experiencing resurgence in popularity with entries into NCA's Most Innovative New Product Awards in the sweet, salty, savory, chocolate and gourmet categories.
  • Caramels are also making a comeback in big way—both on their own and as an inclusion in other products. Look to Hershey’s Lancaster brand and newcomer Lovely Candy Co. as examples.

Meanwhile, legacy brands continued to focus on shareable, resealable varieties of consumer favorites, as well as resuscitating the gum category while riding the growth wave of mints.

What follows is a slideshow of what some of the big confection players had on display at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo, as well as a few trendy up-and-comers.

Wrigley Sweets and Snacks

Wrigley had a broad number of new products, including a rejuvenation of the Juicy Fruit brand with two new extensions: a sugar-free soft-chew format and a bubble gum. Extra Cinnamon Roll, Starburst Superfruit, Skittles Orchards and Altoids Arctic mints were among the other new products on display.

Tic Tac

The line was long at the Tic Tac booth, where showgoers were able to customize their own box using a “factory” of Tic Tac flavors. The company’s latest flavor is the limited-edition Summer Ice Pop.

Hershey Co.

The Hershey Co. had a number of products to spotlight at this year’s show, including Brookside Crunchy Clusters, Hershey’s Spreads Snacksters, the newly relaunched full-size Krackel bar, and Ice Breakers Cool Blasts, which starts as a gum before dissolving into a breath-mint-like blast. 

Just Born Peeps

It was a big show for Just Born Quality Confections, which highlighted its new Peeps Minis, the first Peeps variety available year-round. It also showed off Mike and Ike Zours and a new extension to the Hot Tamales brand: Tropical Heat, featuring Limon Fever, Mango Tango and Pineapple Picante.


One of the most unique products found on the floor, the Firecracker dark chocolate bar from chuao chocolatier features sea salt, chipotle and popping candy crackle—which truly pops in your mouth. Other varieties in the line include Pretzel Toffee Twirl and Potato Chip with kettle-cooked chips and sea salt in milk chocolate.

Leaf Brand Farts

Leaf Brands LLC won the Most Innovative Product Award at the show for its Sour Farts Flow Packs. CEO Ellia Kassoff accepted the award in the Novelty category after a panel vetting of more than 250 different new products.

Mars Dove

Mars Chocolate North America debuted its new chocolate-covered whole blueberries, cranberries and cherries under the Dove brand. In test now, the product will be available January 2015 in a 6-ounce standup pouch and 3-ounce sharing size.


One booth that was hard to miss was Sugarpova, the candy line from tennis star Maria Sharapova. It includes gummies, soft chews and gumballs, all in sharp packaging targeted to females.

Lovely Candy Co.

Young brand Lovely Candy Co. has entered the market with a line of regular and seasonal chewy caramels. The company was created when founder Mike Nakamura sought to develop a line of gluten-free licorice. Its Lovely Licorice is considered by the company to be the first extruded licorice in North America that is gluten-free.