The end of August is one of my favorite times of year.
And it’s not just because autumn — and a profusion of pumpkin-flavored products — is quickly approaching. It means ECRM is hosting the Everyday and Summer Seasonal candy planning session, where spunky startups and industry giants gather to show off items they hope to bring to store shelves over the next year.
Covering these sessions puts me in a unique position. I can check in with each of the attending candy manufacturers without the pressure of buying for a successful retail set. Of course, through up to 80 speed-dating-style meetings with these manufacturers, I see patterns emerge.
This is not lost on the manufacturers themselves. As the four-day session progresses, one of the first questions they ask me is “What are you seeing?”
Well, I’ll tell you. Here are three trends I saw at the 2019 ECRM Everyday & Summer Seasonal Planning session, held Aug. 25-29 at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.
1. Tropical flavors
As Asian and Latin flavors continue to inspire culinary trends, and consumers seek out diverse experiences, it’s no surprise tropical flavors are shaping new confectionery product launches. This is especially true in the chewy and non-chocolate categories. In addition to pineapple and coconut, expect to see sweets in mango, passion fruit and dragon fruit flavors.
2. Co-branding and licensing
Leveraging the equity of a strong brand or entertainment property is not a new concept, but it was in full force at this ECRM session. I saw partnerships with classic food and drink brands, such as Sonic and Kool-Aid, as well as with other confectionery brands. For example, Just Born, maker of Peeps, Mike and Ikes, and Hot Tamales, has been active in this space, licensing everything from cereal to gummies.
Furthermore, a handful of big movie premieres next year offer plenty of opportunity for candy makers. “The SpongeBob Movie: A Wonderful Sponge” is set to hit theaters in May, 20 years after the show’s debut. A second Trolls movie, “Trolls World Tour,” is set to release in April, and “Minions: The Rise of Gru” will debut in July.
At least since Starbucks’ magenta and teal Unicorn Frappucino captivated consumers in April 2017, unicorns have been popular in just about every category. I saw novelty candy, chocolates, marshmallows and other sweets inspired by this mythical creature.
We’re starting to see candy with cannabis components move into everyday options. In fact, Pura Vida’s Watermelon Gummy Rings, made with hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD), won the Buyer’s Choice Award for non-chocolate candy — the first CBD product to win in the award’s history. And Hemp Love, a California-based brand that offers hemp seed chocolate bars, also presented for the first time. I’d expect more CBD and hemp candy to appear at this program in the next few years.
Emojis have been trendy at least since I started with Candy Industry in August 2016, but it seems the poop emoji still reigns supreme. It’s especially popular among makers of novelty items. I saw a variety of dispensers and toys with the beloved emoji, along with at least one hard candy option.
We’ll have more specific product information in a post-session roundup of new products, which we’ll post in October. In the meantime, check out our session preview and my video interview with ECRM’s Lisa Burkart, recorded from the session in New Orleans.