Candy Industry recently spoke with Tim Quinn, v.p. of trade development for Mars Chocolate North America and chairman of the 2013 NCA Sweets & Snacks Expo, about trends he expects to see at the show, how to spot the next successful new product, and tips for buyers trying to navigate the 3.5 acres of Expo booths.

1.    What are some of the unusual trends that you think will be showcased this year at the Expo?

Tim Quinn
Tim Quinn

It’s still early to tell how the trends will pan out, but the Expo’s Most Innovation New Products operations team has shared a few early insights on trends they have seen from the 200+ new products entered in the awards. They include:

  • Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot (spicy)
  • Get Comfy (inspired by comfort foods)
  • Bit & Pieces (small, thin or otherwise portioned)
  • Decidedly Decadent (rich flavors, gourmet appeal)
  • Everything old is new again (retro, new flavors for classic candies, luxurious flavor pairings) 

2.    What should customers look for in new products that will help them know if the product is going to be successful?

Usually new flavors from iconic brands perform well, as consumers look for the names they already know and trust.

Also items that demonstrate ‘real’ innovation tend to draw favor from retailers and shoppers alike.  Whether it’s new flavor combinations, innovative new packaging, or items that encourage new usage occasions, those that bring genuine innovation are rewarded. 

3. What tips would give retailers/customers who are trying to navigate the show, which can be overwhelming?

Here are three easy, quick, and time-saving ways to navigate the Expo:

  • Visit the “Most Innovative New Product Awards” showcase and see 40 of the most popular, up-and-coming products in eight different categories. Product nominees are taste-tested by a panel of industry-wide experts before the show, then retailers cast the final votes live on the show floor.
  • Discover innovation at the New Product Showcase, where you’ll see the largest collection of new confectionery and snack items before they hit the shelves. Hundreds of manufacturers will showcase their new products in the New Product Showcase.
  • Download the time-saving Sweets & Snacks Expo App, which will enable attendees to navigate the show floor; connect with other attendees before, during and after the event; receive real-time show alerts and updates; and view exhibitors’ product materials. It’s for iPhones, Droids and Blackberry devices — just search “sweet expo” or “SSE13” in your application store. 

4.    What is the most exciting thing about the Expo this year?

The 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo promises to be the most successful in the event’s 16-year history, with a sold-out show floor for two years in a row, showcasing participation from exhibitors in the U.S. and around the world.

The Sweets & Snacks Expo is the only show that represents all of the major U.S. distribution channels of confectionery and snack products in one location.  Nearly 40 percent of our exhibitors feature snacks and companies, ranging from the largest multi-national firms to boutique and gourmet companies. More than 15,000 qualified professionals attend, and 550 exhibiting companies will display more than 3.5 acres of candy and snacks.

5.    What can attendees expect to see at the show this year?

With more than 150 new companies exhibiting this year, innovation is the cornerstone of the Expo. In addition to seeing thousands of new products, attendees will learn about the industry’s “most likely to succeed” new items — winners of the Most Innovative New Product Awards.

Plus, the Expo offers so much more than the show floor. The keynote sessions led by industry leaders and category experts will provide insights on merchandising, trends and how the economy may impact confectionery.

The new Shopper Solutions Theater will provide retailers with an interactive gallery of merchandising ideas, case study success stories, and a theater featuring learning labs with shopper marketing experts offering 20 minute insight-packed sessions. This is sure to be one of the hottest and most popular destinations in 2013.

Also new this year is the “Industry Buzz Network Reception.” Connect with confectionery and snack retailers and manufacturers during a reception in the concourse on Wednesday from 5- 6 p.m.

6.     What new products and ideas will Mars be showcasing that you're most excited about this year?

New items that Mars will feature at the NCA Sweets & Snacks Expo certainly play into the trends that the NCA has identified. Our new items include:

·         SnickersBites and Milky Way Bitesare unwrapped, pop ‘em-in-your-mouth, bite-sized cubes -- a convenient and easier-to-eat format of consumers’ favorite candy bar brands.  (May 2013, $1.49 for 2.8-oz. bags, $2.99 for stand-up pouches -- 8.0 oz. Snickers and 7-oz. Milky Way)

·         DoveMint & Dark Chocolate Swirlcombines Dove’s rich, silky smooth dark chocolate with the sensation of cool, fresh mint. (May 2013, $1.99 for 3.3 oz. large bar, $3.49 for 8.5 oz. bag of DOVE® Brand PROMISES®)

·         M&M’SChocolate Baroffers creamy, smooth milk chocolate and the colorful candy fun of the M&M’S® Brand, so consumers can satisfy their love of chocolate bars with the M&M’S® Brand Candies they’ve grown up with.  (May 2013, $1.09 for 1.5 oz. single)

·         CombosBaked Snacks 7 Layer Dip Tortilla packs big flavors in a small bite, combining the robust flavors of cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado, tomato, refried beans, onion and spicy jalapeño peppers. (April 2013, $.89 for 1.5 oz. singles bags, $2.49 for 6.3-oz. medium bags)

·         New seasonal candy, including Twix Santas for Christmas and Twix hearts for Valentine’s Day.

The NCA Sweets & Snacks Expo is also a terrific opportunity to meet with customers one-on-one and introduce new products, discuss upcoming promotions, unveil new shopper research and explain our cocoa sustainability initiatives that support cocoa farmers around the globe and help ensure supply.

7. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

As far as trends go, we’ve been seeing an increase in consumer demand for bite-size unwrapped chocolate. These bags offer convenience and portability, and they are easier to share. M&M’S Candies are the ideal sharing product, and in May we’re introducing Snickers Bites and Milky Way Bites, which we’re excited about.