NCA Reveals 2018 Most Innovative New Product Award Winners

nra sweet snacks expo

More than 300 new products were submitted for the National Confectioners Association’s 2018 Most Innovative New Product Awards, and the winners were announced May 22 during the 2018 Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago.

The awards—sponsored by data research firm IRI—recognize the best and most innovative introductions in snacks and candy in nine categories: gum and mints; novelty and licensed; seasonal; sweet snacks; salty snacks; savory snacks; nonchocolate; gourmet and premium; and chocolate. Products are judged on innovation, taste, packaging and go-to-market ability.

“Historically, innovation has driven about 7% of the growth in confections,” said Larry Levin, executive vice president of consumer and shopper marketing for IRI, Chicago. “New products spark excitement for the consumer and generate more opportunities for treating.”

The awards included a Best in Show, as well as the new Ruby Award for Supplier Innovation, which was given to a supplier for an innovation that doesn’t quite fit the packaged snacks and candy set—yet.

Click through for all the winners and nominees.

Gum and mints

tic tac cool tropical

Cool Tropical Tic Tac Gum from Ferrero USA Inc., Parsippany, N.J., was the winner in the gum and mints category. One pack contains 56 pieces of sugar-free gum. Tic Tac Gum also comes in Freshmint, Spearmint and Watermelon flavors.

Other nominees: 

  • Mentos CleanBreath, Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc.
  • Juicy Fruit Gum Collisions Strawberry Watermelon, Mars Wrigley Confectionery
  • Ice Breakers Deep Freeze Peppermint, The Hershey Co.
  • Cleanse gum, Simply Gum


ferrero rocher golden heart for your & me

Ferrero was also a winner in the seasonal category for its Golden Heart for You & Me product, which features a hollow milk chocolate and hazelnut heart with two Ferrero Rocher candies inside.  

Other nominees:

  • Big Chewy Nerds Reindeer Stocking Hanger, Nestle USA
  • Jelly Belly Love Beans Valentine's Gift Box, Jelly Belly Candy Co.
  • Mars Wrigley Chocolate Variety mix party bowl, Mars Wrigley Confectionery
  • Hershey’s Kisses Hot Cocoa, The Hershey Co.

Novelty and licensed

warheads dippin' rings

Warheads Dippin’ Rings from Impact Confections Inc., Janesville, Wis., came out on top in the novelty and licensed category. The product contains a ring pop and sour candy powder for dipping. Two varieties are available: blue raspberry pop with sour green apple powder and sweet watermelon pop with sour blue raspberry powder.

Other nominees:

  • Frozen and Jurassic World Limited Editions, Ferrero USA Inc.
  • Baby Bottle Popping Powder, Bazooka Candy Brands, a division of The Topps Co.
  • Pez Jurassic World Click & Play Gift Tin, Pez Candy Inc.
  • Jelly Belly Krispy Kreme Doughnut Tin, Jelly Belly Candy Co.

Sweet snacks


Natural and organic nut-butter brand Justin’s, Boulder, Colo., was named the winner in the sweet-snacks category for its Organic White Chocolate Mini Peanut Butter Cups. The individually wrapped mini cups come in a 4.7-ounce bag.

Other nominees: 

  • Cinnamon Crumb Cake Thins, That’s How We Roll
  • Cookie Butter Snappers, Edward Marc Brands Inc.
  • Spicy Mangos, Vidal Candies USA Inc.
  • Superfruit Mix, Promotion in Motion

Salty snacks

sahale snacks' tangerine vanilla cashew macadamia glazed mix

The winner in salty snacks was Tukwila, Wash.-based Sahale Snacks’ Tangerine Vanilla Cashew-Macadamia Glazed Mix, featuring cashews, macadamia nuts, dried mango, tangerine and pure ground Madagascar vanilla bean.

Other nominees:

  • Cauliflower Pretzel Sticks, From the Ground Up
  • Butterfinger, Perfect Snax
  • Salt and Pepper Veggie Pops, Made in Nature LLC
  • Blackberry Habanero Oven Baked Pork Rinds, Rudolph Foods Co. Inc.

Savory snacks

alli & rose's crispy trail mix crackers

Alli & Rose’s Crispy Trail Mix Crackers won in the savory-snacks category. The crackers are made with mung beans, cashews, raisins, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. An 8.2-ounce bag contains 20 individual packs, with 60 calories per pack. Alli & Rose is based in Lincolnton, N.C.

Other nominees:

  • Bacon and Eggs, Cheesewich Factory
  • Cheez-It Duoz Caramel Popcorn & Cheddar, The Kellogg Co.
  • High Protein Chips, Land O’Frost
  • Baked Cheddar Protein Crisps, Clever Cookie

Gourmet and premium

parmcrisps trio

ParmCrisps Trios in Original from That’s How We Roll, Fairfield, N.J., was the winner in the gourmet and premium category. This variety of on-the-go, shelf-stable snack contains Cheese ParmCrisps, almonds, pumpkin seeds, apricots and craisins. Other varieties include Mediterranean and Tropical.

Other nominees:

  • Ravishing Rocky Road Joy-Filled Caramels, Chuao Chocolatier
  • Native Andean Potato Chip Mix, KIWA
  • Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Marshmallows, Hammond's Brands
  • Dove Chocolate cashews dipped in milk chocolate, Mars Wrigley Confectionery


hersheys gold

The winner in the chocolate category was Hershey’s Gold standard bar from Hershey, Pa.-based The Hershey Co. The bar contains caramelized cream and salty peanut and pretzel bits.

Other nominees:

  • Junior Mint Minis, Tootsie Roll Industries Inc.
  • Seattle Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Truffle Bar, Seattle Chocolate
  • Football FANtasy, R.M. Palmer Co.
  • Coconut Melts Freeze-Dried & Immersed in Dark Chocolate, Tru Fru LLC


big chewy nerds

Big Chewy Nerds from Nestle USA/Ferrara Candy Co. took the top spot in the nonchocolate category. The supersized nerds are both crunchy and chewy with no artificial flavors. Nestle has agreed to sell its U.S. candy business to Ferrero, which acquired Ferrara in October.

Other nominees: 

  • Sour Brite Sneaks, Ferrara Candy Co.
  • Jolly Rancher Misfits, The Hershey Co.
  • Hotheads Scorching Heat Twists, Impact Confections Inc.
  • Vanilla Caramel Marshmallow, Hammond's Brands

Best in Show

hostess bakery pettites

The Best in Show winner—the top new product among all categories—was Cake Delights in Double Chocolate from Hostess Brands, Kansas City, Mo. Cake Delights are part of Hostess’ Bakery Petites line of hand-crafted, poppable bakery treats. These cream-filled cake balls also come in White Fudge Vanilla.

Ruby Award

ruby chocolate

The inaugural Ruby Award, which recognizes supplier innovation, was given to Barry Callebaut, a supplier of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products based in Switzerland, for its Ruby Chocolate. The company is calling the product, with its pink hue and berry taste, the fourth type of chocolate, after milk, dark and white chocolate. And while it is not available for consumer consumption yet, John Downs, president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association, said Ruby Chocolate is the “very definition of innovation of our business” and one of the “biggest breakthroughs” in the chocolate category. The Ruby Award for Supplier Innovation was named in honor of the first recipient.