The other day, a group of us braved the center seat to make our way to Chicago to partake in the National Confectioners Association Sweets & Snacks Expo. As promised, there were both sweets and snacks to be seen as far as the eye could see. So. Many. Aisles and aisles lined with innumerable vendors, all giving out samples. Needless to say, we had a light dinner that night.
The purpose of our trip was to get an idea of where the trends in the rapidly growing snack category were heading. Here are five of the key take-aways we…well, took away.
- The push for protein-on-the-go continues. We saw a wide variety of suppliers of meat snacks which have a generally low calorie count, are convenient, cost-effective and travel-friendly. From relative newcomer to the category Omaha Steaks to innovators like Perky Jerky and hometown hero Mighty Spark Food Co., meat lovers will continue to have a lot of choices in types of products and flavor profiles. Our vegetarian friends will be pleased to hear plant protein also appears to be a growing trend.
- Speaking of plant protein…chickpeas, chickpeas, chickpeas. From chocolate covered chickpeas to jalapeno roasted chickpeas to sweet chili chickpea chips, the possibilities for this gluten-free, vegan, protein-on-the go, seem endless.
- Fruit and vegetable treats. Wait, isn’t that an oxymoron? Nope, not anymore. Some of our favorites from Sweets & Snacks include cactus faux jerky, coconut chips, and silver dollar-size pureed fruit packs from a Turkish food manufacturer.
- Combos galore. The trend towards interesting combinations of flavor profiles continues: Chili Lime, Raspberry Lemon, Coconut Coffee, and Cranberry Ginger are a few of the combos that will be hitting the shelves to tempt adventurous taste buds.
- And the award for most interesting packaging goes to Farmer’s Pantry. Their innovative snack pack has separate compartments to keep crispy carbs crunchy and tender jerkies chewy until combined by the consumer. Best part, their varieties — Chicken and Waffles, Steak and Fries, Bacon and Cornbread — were super tasty. Definitely a stand-out.
Special thanks our friends at Pearson’s for providing us with the tickets.