While attending the Sweets and Snacks Expo, I tried approx. 5,348 (give or take) pieces of candy (give or take). And while all that sugar made me crash pretty hard, I was still able to make some order from the chaos.
As we munched on our post-show samples, my amazing Editor-in-Chief Bernie Pacyniak and I were able to decipher five clear trends that stood out:
1. Let’s start with where God is, in the Artistic details.
The folks at Ghirardelli showed off their insanely detailed Impressions squares that go beyond simply featuring intense artwork. The company took it one step further and also featured a white chocolate shape in the center. For example, the Easter Impressions squares are made with milk chocolate and then feature a white chocolate rabbit in the center, holding three Easter Eggs, each decorated differently. Ah, goodness is in the detail.
2. The next big thing at the show was also pretty small: Bite-size.
Of course, it’s only fair to say that this trend really kicked into high gear a few years ago with Hershey’s Drops, which launched in 2010. But, as every candy company instinctively knows: people like the convenience of shoving unwrapped things into their mouth. And so, we continue to see more and more companies coming out with bite-size candies.
My personal favorite this year was the Snicker’s Bites. But I also enjoyed my share of Milky Way Bites, Kit Kat Bites, Starburst minis, Sour Punch Punchies, and Airheads Bites. And don’t even get me started on the new collection from the Warrell Corp. called Cravemmm! snacks. My favorite were the chocolate-covered peanut brittle bites, but the chocolate-covered almonds with sea salt were a close second.
3. The next trend has me reminiscing of the days when penny candy was a penny and calories didn’t stick to my bones like molasses: Nostalgic treats.
The most exciting example of this was the new life Bit-O-Honey got under its new management, as part of Pearson’s Candy Co.
Michael Keller, Pearson’s president, has promised to shine a spotlight on the brand, which hasn’t exactly gotten star treatment under its most recent owner, Nestle, and he made good on his word at the show. Throughout the Expo, Pearson’s gave away thousands of samples of the sweet and sticky treat; if you didn’t already know better; the large signs would have made it seem like a brand new product. It was great to see such an overlooked candy get the attention it deserves.
4. Moving along, to gourmet popcorn.
Technically this is a snack and technically, we are a candy magazine, but seeing as how popcorn now comes covered in caramel and chocolate and sea salt and everything else that’s confectionery, I figured we could squeeze this one in.
For me, it was the Popcornopolis Zebra flavor that made me a believer. A caramel corn drizzled in white and dark chocolate, I have to agree with the company’s description of what happens when you eat it: “This is lust at first bite, a sensuous and divinely compelling experience. The taste lingers sweetly on your tongue, sending shivers down your spine. Your pulse quickens, your knees go weak, and your defenses crumble. Oh, yes. Zebra Popcorn is that good.”
5. And that brings us to our final trend: Chocolate as an ingredient.
It’s a natural evolution really. Baked items taste good. Chocolate candy taste good. Baked items with chocolate candy? Awesome!
The Sweetworks people were all over this with bakers at the company’s booth using Sixlets to make everything from an adorable cupcake shoes, bedazzled in pink and white Sixlets, to mini Rice Krispies treats blinged out with Sixlets in the shape of flowers.
They weren’t the only ones have fun with an oven though. Ghirardelli also expanded the baking ingredients part of its business with the launch of chocolate wafers for candy making and dipping.
Seeing as how everything Ghirardelli makes tastes like you would expect the chocolate river from Willy Wonka to taste, I can only assume that these make baking glorious.
So there you have it: the top five trends from the 2013 Sweets and Snacks Expo. Based on past experience, as soon as I get over my sugar addiction, it’ll be time for next year’s show.
Be sure to check out further of the Sweets and Snacks Expo in the August issue!