By: Rachel Gignac | July 25, 2023

Sustenance for the year ahead

The Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago this May revealed trends in the form of merchandising strategies and innovative products. CSP found snack and candy companies combining flavors in new ways, expanding well-known products into new territories, mixing sweet and salty and more. Read on to find out what retailers can do to give consumers what they want.

Diversifying Sizes

In 2022, 48% of consumers said they were looking for snacks that came from multi- or variety packs, up eight points from the previous year, Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader at Chicago-based research firm Circana, said at the 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo.

Multipacks’ higher price point may be more expensive up front but end up being cheaper when comparing price-per-serving to that of smaller sizes. If consumers can afford that initial expense, they are investing, said Wyatt. If not, smaller sizes need to be available for them because, for example, nonchocolate candy, potato chips and tortilla chips are telling a different story. In these categories, smaller sizes performed well.

“You need to have an entry point for consumers that cannot afford to buy the multipack,” said Wyatt. “Those entry points are what helped nonchocolate and potato chips [increase sales in smaller sizes].”

While novelty candy unit sales were up 29.1% in c-stores in 2022, according to Circana, the segment is also leveraging the strategy of reaching more shoppers. 

CandyRific, for example, is trying to reach more consumers with lower priced items, said Jeff Greenwald, east regional sales director at CandyRific, Louisville, Kentucky. The brand’s new mini backpacks—offered in Disney, Avengers and Sweet Squad varieties—are priced around $3.99, cheaper than its fans and dispensers.

“You need to have an entry point for consumers that cannot afford to buy the multipack.”

Winning Flavors

The four flavor profiles with the most growth in unit sales in 2022 were sweet, tangy, blends and spicy, according to Circana data.

“Hot and spicy, for over a decade, continues to be a hot commodity,” said Wyatt. “But what has happened is, with more consumers snacking throughout the day, their palates are looking for a variety of different flavors of snacks. So when you try to do something a little different, you have a blank canvas.”

Furthermore, while boomers are more likely to practice planned purchasing, millennials and Gen Z are more adventurous, said Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics, San Antonio, Texas, in a Sweets & Snacks Expo education session. Younger individuals enjoy trying candy in flavors that are new to them, from brands they weren’t previously aware of and from countries across the globe.

“With more consumers snacking throughout the day, their palates are looking for a variety of different flavors of snacks.”

Products Tell the Story

Within these new flavor trends, one took the spotlight: cinnamon.

Cinnamon-flavored and -dusted snacks spotted at the Expo include the new Kit Kat Churro from The Hershey Co., Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Cinnamon Dunkaroos from Minneapolis-based General Mills. The Hershey Co. also created Dot’s Homestyle Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels to combine salty and sweet flavor profiles in a new way. And Apple Cinnamon Chunk Nibbles, a nut-free crunchy snack mix featuring freeze-dried cinnamon apples and cinnamon crumbles from Troy, Michigan-based Chunk Nibbles, won best in show in the Most Innovative New Product Awards by the National Confectioners Association, the host of the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Packaged popcorn was another hit this year. Consumers have left freshly popped popcorn for the movie theatre and placed value on packaged popcorn since the pandemic began, vying to enjoy the cinema experience at home.

Nine out of 10 brands in the popcorn category saw sales increase in 2022, according to Snac International’s 2023 State of the Industry Report. Seven out of 10 experienced a double-digit hike, ringing in an overall 13.1% growth for the $1.7 billion market.

Drizzled popcorn was around every corner, with Reese’s Popcorn from Hershey, featuring peanut butter and chocolate drizzle. Snax-Sational’s Cookie, Candy and Cereal Pop affixes classic treats, such as Oreo, Chips Ahoy!, M&M’s, Twix, Snickers, Sour Patch Kids, Nutter Butter, Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles atop the salty snack. Drizzilicious, a drizzled popcorn brand made by Snack Innovations Inc., Piscataway, New Jersey, is expanding the offerings in this space by launching two new flavors, Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Chip.

Nonchocolate chewy candy was down 1.4% in convenience-store unit sales in 2022, according to Circana year-end data.

One of the only four brands with growth in the space was Ferrara’s SweeTarts, up 6.5%. During the trade show, Ferrara debuted its new Sweetarts Mega Ropes, chewy candy ropes with a tart filling.

Other bite-and-tear, rope-shaped gummy snacks include Mike and Ike Filled Ropes, Hot Tamales Filled Licorice Ropes and Peeps Filled Ropes, all from Just Born, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The Shopping Experience

Products that lend well to at-home merchandising have become attractive.

“People want to have experiences that they used to have outside of the home, inside of the home,” said Leigh O’Donnell, head of shopper and category insights and solutions at London-based market research firm Kantar at the trade show.

The Reese’s pantry pack, for example, is a pack of individually wrapped Reese’s made with several access points, ideal for easy access in the refrigerator, countertops or pantry.

Ferrara debuted flexible packaging for its SweeTarts Ropes that can be displayed horizontally or vertically.

Source: CSP