This year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo continued the industry’s efforts to emphasize the role chocolate and candy can play in a happy, balanced lifestyle with its Always a Treat initiative. The five-year commitment by America’s leading chocolate and candy companies aims to provide consumers with more information, options and support to enjoy their favorite treats, including a wider variety of pack sizes containing 200 calories or less per pack and a promise to print clear calorie information on the front of 90% of their products.
“With hundreds of innovations, insights and ideas to transform the world of chocolate, candy and snacks, the Sweets & Snacks Expo is the most important annual event in the industry,” said Carly Schildhaus, spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, which runs the expo. “Sweets and snacks manufacturers have always been at the forefront of defining outstanding consumer experiences, setting trends and delivering a wide variety of options and choices. That excitement and the vibrancy of the category come to life on the floor of the show each year.”
Hershey Highlights ‘Moments of Goodness’
Laura Renaud (from left to right), Kaylee Dugan, Kelsey Powell and Tamara Davis from the Hershey Co. were on hand at to discuss how the company is driving new snacking occasions to create “more moments of goodness” in its 125th year as a confections and snacks leader. Visitors to Hershey’s booth were treated to new product offerings from Reese’s, Hershey’s and Kit Kat, which Renaud said underscores how the company is “meeting new snacking occasions and providing actionable insights to win over today’s more discriminating and adventurous shoppers.”
As the National Confectioners Association’s most important trade gathering, this year’s expo drew more than 15,000 candy, confections and snack professionals from around the globe to interact with more than 800 exhibitors, including more than 200 first-time exhibitors, and peruse an estimated 2,000 new products.
Fini Sugarcoats the Chicago Theater
Fini Sweets’ colorful designs and imaginative flavors were in full bloom at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Spain’s leading candy maker and global leader in nonchocolate confections enlisted candy artists Jim Victor and Marie Pelton to create a large-scale artwork paying homage to the show’s host city of Chicago using Fini candy as their medium. As it looks to grow its U.S. footprint with its signature gummies, licorice and marshmallow treats, Fini Sweets' North American candy portfolio was designed “to deliver on the delicious taste and satisfying texture that has made Fini internationally famous,” said Director of Marketing Trevin Morton.
Ocho Candy’s Organic Genius
Ocho Candy founder Denis Ring, along with colleague Deborah Morgan, were spreading the word about the brand’s positioning as a “fun, organic alternative to traditional chocolate bars.” Interesting to note about Ocho’s candy bars and minis is how they are manufactured at the company’s 25,000-square-foot facility in West Oakland, Calif., which uses specialized equipment that does everything from melting and tempering the chocolate to filling and packaging the bars. All eight products in Ocho’s lineup are certified organic, non-GMO and gluten-free, while its fillings are all handmade from scratch.
Mars Wrigley’s Sweet and Savory Solutions
Key members of the Mars Wrigley Confectionery team, including Kerry Healy (from left), Mike Gilroy, Angelina Franco and Shaf Lalani, discussed a bevy of new products and never-before-seen in-store merchandising solutions to give retailers the tools they need to create an optimal in-store experience. The confectionery leader also revealed its 2020 shelving and merchandising recommendations and key product launches to support retailers in driving sales and overall category growth. “Innovation is at the heart of what we do at Mars Wrigley Confectionery and our retailers are at our core,” said Gilroy, which is demonstrated by its global research and insights and new products, such as the rise of nut butters and flavor mash-ups with its flagship products, including Combos, Snickers, Dove, Extra, Milky Way, M&M's Skittles, Starburst and Twix.
Gerrit J. Verburg Embraces Unicorns and Retro Faves
Retail buyers looking for the latest confectionery trends—including consumers’ desire for gluten-free items and infatuation with unicorns and llamas—were in the right place at the Gerrit J. Verburg Co. booth. Joe Foguth discussed the company’s unique brands, including Fort Knox, Gustaf’s, Gerrit’s Bakery Stroopwafels and retro chewing gum brands Black Jack, Clove and Beemans.
Oberto’s New Agenda
Mark Falconi and Mike Mayleben were spreading the news of Oberto Snacks’ new look, new products, new cooking processes, new packaging and new brands for the $3 billion meat snacks category. Falconi said the company’s investment represents “the most significant and comprehensive improvements to quality and flavor” in Oberto’s 101-year history.
Sugarpova’s 'Rewarding' Treats
Tennis star Maria Sharapova and her candy company Sugarpova unveiled four new all-natural flavors—Pink Grapefruit, Strawberry Cream, Sour Blue Raspberry and Sour Tart Cherry—to its line of free-from gummies. Sharapova’s mantra for the premium confection line she founded (which also includes chocolates and truffles) is rooted in celebrating hard work and is inspired by her childhood, when she would reward herself after a long day of practice with a sweet treat. “To me, candy is a reward for hard work, and with the launch of our new gummy line, I’m excited to help customers celebrate life’s sweet moments with an even better treat.”
Jack Links’ New Additions
Beth Jarocki and Mike Baranzcyzk welcomed showgoers to the Jack Link’s booth, where the company showcased a medley of new products, such as its Zero Sugar Beef Jerky made with 100% lean beef and Lorissa’s Kitchen Lunchbox Size Tender Bites and 100% Grass-Fed Beef Sticks.
On the Scene With Mr. Jelly Belly
A highlight of the Sweets & Snacks Expo are the playful brand mascots, many of which have become familiar figures in the food industry, such as Mr. Jelly Belly, who welcomed visitors to check out the brand’s newest lines, such as its ice cream-flavored jelly beans and Jelly Belly Recipe Mix, the latter of which has five new flavors, each with a different flavor on the inside and outside.
Welcome to Haribo's Colorful World
Haribo had a lot in store for expo attendees, including two new treats: a watermelon flavored gummy, which features a unique soft texture and watermelon shape and Zing Sour Bites, which are dual-layered with two flavors. The two new products join Haribo's flagship Goldbears, along with other fan favorites from the candy maker.