3 Key Takeaways from the 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo

CHICAGO – Nearly 18,000 people attended the National Confectioners Association’s 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo recently, the final show to be held in Chicago before moving to Indianapolis (2024, 2025) and Las Vegas (2026).

At the sold-out show in Chicago, attendees were able to see the full range of indulgent to fun to better-for-you candy, chocolate, snacks, and frozen treats categories. Here’s a look at a few notable themes that were on display:

Interactive Fun

At the 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo, two companies showcased lollipops that go beyond providing flavor to offer recording, audio, or whistling features. Amos Food Group won the NCA’s Most Innovative New Product Award Winner in Novelty/Licensed for its TastySounds RecordableLollipop – Peach Nectar. The Amos TastySounds Audio Lollipop and Recordable Lollipop combine cutting-edge bone conduction technology (to listen to music through their mouths) with the enjoyment of a lollipop to offer a unique and immersive sensory experience.

Perfetti Van Melle USA, Inc. introduced the Chupa Chups Melody Pops, a delicious lollipop that is also a functioning whistle that can play different notes.

“Consumers are looking for a distinctive lollipop experience. With the introduction of Melody Pops, Chupa Chups … add the unique touch of personalized entertainment to the fast-growing lollipop segment in the U.S.,” said Craig Cuchra, vice president of marketing, Perfetti Van Melle USA, in a press release. The personalized entertainment provided by Chupa Chups Melody Pops lends itself to fans sharing their whistling on social media.

Bubble Tea

Gen Z loves to drink bubble tea at tea shops and Asian restaurants. Bubble tea is a colorful and customizable chilled milk tea containing large tapioca pearls called “boba” and sipped through a jumbo straw. Jelly Belly developed a new line of Boba Milk Tea jelly beans that match the taste of five popular boba milk tea flavors. The five flavors are mango, taro, matcha, strawberry, and Thai.

Bubble tea flavors are being incorporated into mochi, frozen treat, and protein bar formats. Alli & Rose LLC offered Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea Mochi with a brown sugar milk tea flavored center and a boba pearl center inside the soft and chewy mochi. Walong Marketing, Inc. featured its I Mei Brown Sugar Boba Ice Milk Bars that combine milk and brown sugar boba balls into a frozen treat. Mummy Wins, LLC added a bubble tea flavor to its Unite Food line of globally inspired protein bars.

Global Flavors

As consumers seek out flavor adventures, candy and snack makers are going beyond tried-and-true flavors.

Better Sour Co. is a new candy company that seeks to celebrate culture through sour flavors around the world. The company offered two mixed-bag varieties. One bag honors flavors popular in the Middle East: pomegranate, apricot, and plum. The other focuses on flavors popular in the Asia-Pacific region: guava, calamansi, and ume plum.

Century Snacks brings the taste of Mexican Tajin chili and lime seasoning to gummies. Its new Tajin Gummy Bears feature a mix of orange, pineapple, strawberry, lemon, and apple flavors with the Tajin seasoning blend of mild chili peppers, lime and sea salt. Cookie company Tubby’s Taste offered Jamaican inspired cookies, including Home Sweet Home (mango, coconut, lime), Island Spice, and Caribbean Punch (grapefruit, pineapple, hibiscus).

Cultured Kernel’s MASHUP is a premium snack food brand inspired by the richness of the Caribbean. Its popcorn varieties include Caribbean Caramel & Jerk, Jerk & White Cheddar, and Jamaican Jerk Vegan. Meanwhile, the winner of the event’s Most Innovative New Product Award in Savory Snacks was Truly Good Foods – Henrietta Said Ancho Kimchi Flavored Peanuts. The jumbo roasted peanuts were designed to mimic the flavors of chicken wings by fusing the Mexican ancho chile flavor with tangy Korean kimchi seasonings.

Virginia Lee is a food & beverages trendspotter and market research analyst. She has advised companies on innovation and market entry opportunities in consumer packaged goods at Euromonitor International, Innova Market Insights, and Brightfield Group. Connect with Virginia on Twitter and Instagram at @VirginiaALee.

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