Busier lifestyles and a growing awareness of how diet can affect health has prompted a big shift in the way US consumers eat. This has been particularly felt by the sweets and snacks industries where manufacturers are having to innovate to meet evolving consumer demand. Protein-based snacks, sugar-free candy and bite-sized chocolate dominated aisles at this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago.
The global market for candy and snacks is worth US$428bn and in the US alone, snacking is a big part of its culture. In recent years, however, there has been a real shift in the way these products are consumed. People are busier with work and travel and as a result seek out more convenient options. But whether they grab a chocolate bar or a pack of popcorn, the opportunity for snack food and confectionery manufacturers is huge.
At this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo, which took place in Chicago from 19-21 May, more than 650 companies targeted 16,000 industry professionals, to showcase their latest products.
One of the most prevalent trends is the shift to more portable and convenient snacks.One of the ways in which confectionery manufacturers have responded is by launching mini-sized versions, suitable for snacking opportunities. According to Euromonitor, in 2014, sugar confectionery saw a "huge influx of miniaturised products" including Jolly Rancher, Twizzler and Mars' Starburst. At this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo, Justin's launched a mini-version of its organic peanut butter cups.
"Major manufacturers continue to see growth potential in mini products, as this format seamlessly fits into the current preference among young adults for food that is easy to snack on, portion control, and share with friends," a spokesperson for Euromonitor said.
And the shift to more convenient eating opportunities extends to snacking too. Snack bars, such as Kind Bars or General Mills' Nature Valley Protein Bars - which deliver nutrition, quickly and portably - continue to prove popular in the US. In 2014 Euromonitor forecast snack bars would grow with a 4% value CAGR at constant 2014 prices whilst volume sales would grow by 2% CAGR in the country. US food maker Wolfgang Candy Co. is hoping to capture some of that growth with its Greek Style Yoghurt Treats - a blend of candy and Greek yoghurt.
One thing many Greek yoghurt manufacturers often boast about is high natural protein content. And protein - alongside another growing trend among US consumers which is to 'eat better' - continues to prove popular. Again, speedier ways of consuming protein is key when it comes to consumers' preferred eating habits. Western's Smokehouse is looking to go up against competitors like Jack Link's and Hershey's Krave with the launch of meat snack Big 'Un, another product which made its debut at the show.
Check out just-food's pick of some of the most interesting products at the show.
Beanfields, Bean and Rice Chips
Over the past five years, US consumers have increased their snacking frequency from 1.9 snacks per day to 2.8 snacks per day. But the shift towards "healthier" snacking cannot go unnoticed. Beanfields has launched Bean and Rice Chips, after noticing consumers are "rebelling against snacks made from empty calories; refined starches; sugars and fats".The new range features seven flavours with a third less fat than "many mainstream snacks", 5g of protein and 6g of fibre per ounce. The chips are made from beans and whole grain brown rice. They are Non-GMO Project Verified, certified gluten-free and vegan-friendly.
Justin's, Organic Mini Peanut Butter Cups
The organic market is set to grow 14% between 2014 and 2018 according to the United States Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities report published by research group Research and Markets. US confectioner Justin's has introduced organic mini peanut butter cups to its collection. Available in dark and milk chocolate, the bite-sized treats are 100%organic and gluten free. The cups are designed to be "portable and shareable to allow consumers to enjoy the organic treat anywhere and everywhere – perfect for mini cravings, baking, desk drawers and candy dishes", the company said.
Mediterranean Snacks, Tapaz2Go
Salty snacks experienced a 2.3% volume growth in the US between 2012-2013 according to statistics group Statistia. But it's clear consumers want more when they are snacking; products that fill you up, but are better-for-you at the same time. Mediterranean Snacks has teamed up with the Snyder's-Lance brand Snyder's of Hanover to introduce Tapaz2Go. The snack features a single serve portion of Red Pepper Hummus with Mini Pretzels in "one nutritious snack, catering to consumers on the go". The product is shelf-stable and better for you, with 5g of protein and only 180 calories.
Wolfgang Candy Co., Greek Style Yoghurt Treats
Greek yoghurt has enjoyed pretty rapid growth in the US. According to dairy giant Fonterra, Greek yoghurt went from a 5% share of the yoghurt market to 30% in the 18 months to 2014. Wolfgang Candy Co. plans to play on that, together with the continued growth of on-the-go snacks. It has launched a Greek Style Yogurt Treats product line. The range comprises four variants: Key Lime, Blood Orange & Mango, Peach and Blueberry. The product is a blend of Greek yoghurt and confectionery. "Consumers who love Greek yoghurt, and who enjoy a decedent treat every now and then will love our Greek Style Yogurt Treats," said Ben McGlaughlin, CEO at Wolfgang Candy Co.
Better-for-you snacks and popcorn maker, Skinnygirl, has announced a foray into candy confectionery. Its new candy range will be distributed by Rivo in the US. It comprises six products.Skinnygirl continues to drive the health and wellness message with the new range, as US consumers seek out healthier foods. Chocolate squares made of Belgian chocolate contain no trans fat. Its mints product is zero calories and is made of an all natural sweetener blend. The caramels product is all natural and Belgian chocolate truffles are under 100 calories per serving. It also has two gluten free options - an all-natural Belgian cocoa and a gummies product. Rivo said: "Skinnygirl Candy celebrates the fun of indulgence by providing a savvy solution without compromising on taste or giving up on the products we love".
Torie & Howard, Organic Chewie Fruities
US sales of organic products were an estimated $28.4bn in 2012 and will reach an estimated $35 billion in 2014, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. The number of products making an organic claim continues to rise.Torie & Howard have launched an organic, Non-GMO chewy candy at the 2015 Sweets & Snacks Expo. Chewie Fruities are available in three flavours: Italian tarocco blood orange and wildflower honey, California pomegranate and sweet freestone nectarine, and meyer lemon and raspberry. "We want to craft candy that is as health-friendly,eco-friendly, and socially conscious as possible while still being absolutely delicious," Torie Burke, company co-founder said.
Western's Smokehouse, Big 'Un
According to a Packaged Facts April-May 2014 survey, 63% of Americans now "make a point of consuming plenty of protein". Meat is always one of the first things one thinks of when "protein" is mentioned. In the past, Kraft Foods Group has extended its Oscar Mayer brand to attract those on the hunt for more protein in their diets and Canada's Maple Leaf Foods launched Protinis - the "complete protein snack". Now, US food firm Western's Smokehouse has expanded its meat snacks line up with the launch of "Big 'Un". This marks the entry of Western’s Smokehouse into the larger size format of meat snack sticks, and provides consumers with a healthier alternative for convenient snack items. The product is available in eight savoury flavours. "The meat snack category is a rapidly growing segment, and with so many people on the go, consumers are constantly looking for healthier higher quality snack alternatives," said Kevin Western, COO at Western’s Smokehouse.
Chocolate confectionery, according to Euromonitor, is expected to increase by a CAGR of 3% in value sales to reach US$20.4bn in the US by 2019. Hershey, is one of the biggest players. In 2014, together with Mars, it accounted for 65% share of value sales in chocolate confectionery in the US. But more recently Hershey has been looking to up its game and consider what future chocolate eating habits might entail. At the Sweets & Snacks Expo, Hershey introduced 3D printing technology. "The intersection of technology and consumers’ desire for customisation is changing their experiences with confection and foods," Hershey said. The chocolate maker has tied up with 3D Systems to introduce 3D printed chocolate. The printer is on display at Sweets & Snacks.
Chuao, Breakfast Chocolate
With breakfast cereal continuing to struggle in the US, chocolatier Chuao has come up with a way to entice people by promoting feelings of nostalgia associated with breakfast, and what better way than through chocolate. According to Euromonitor retail value sales of chocolate confectionery increased 4% in 2014 to reach US$17.8bn. Chuao's latest chocolates are available in Cinnamon Cereal Smooch and Strawberry Waffle Wild. Chef Michael Antonorsi, co-founder of Chuao, said the range was inspired by his "love affair with breakfast foods". "Inspiration struck the moment I realised we could share the joy of these comfort foods with our fans by marrying them with our chocolate bar. This creates a convenient way to experience chocolate and breakfast any time of the day."
Fruit Spotz, Natural Handmade Leather
The average American eats less than two cups of fruits and veggies a day. Studies suggest it should be four to five cups. Though there is not really an equivalent substitute for actual fruit and vegetable consumption, some US manufacturers are looking at innovative ways of upping intake. Fruit Spotz has launched Fruit Dotz Natural Handmade Fruit Leather. Fruit Dotz is certified kosher, gluten free, Non-GMO and vegan. There is no sugar, food colouring or preservatives added; and is fibre-enriched. "The mission of Fruit Dotz is to enable adults and children with an alternative to healthy snacking," the company said.