CHICAGO — Cauliflower, chickpeas and lentils are among the somewhat surprising ingredients cropping up in new products at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Other launches feature intense flavors such as bourbon vanilla or blackberry habanero. Such products challenge perceptions of treating and snacking, said Susan Whiteside, vice-president of public relations and marketing communications, National Confectioners Association, which sponsors the annual event.

“Our idea of treating and snacking is changing,” Ms. Whiteside told Food Business News. “Millennials’ definitions of what a snack is and what a meal is are different than a generation before them, let alone two or three generations before them, what their grandparents would have viewed as a snack or as a treat. Retailers are recognizing that their consumer needs are shifting and changing and that they have to have a lot of choices to satisfy their shoppers and to make the shopping experience unique and fun.”

Nearly 18,000 industry professionals were expected to gather at McCormick Place in Chicago May 22-24 to view the latest innovations from more than 800 exhibiting companies. The event features five acres of candy and snack products, curated to showcase emerging industry trends, Ms. Whiteside said.

“In the always popular category of new takes on old favorites, caramel and coconut seem to be where it’s at this year,” Ms. Whiteside said. “Those are perennial classics.”

Products at Sweets & SnacksExamples at the show include vegan coconut caramels in flavors such as ginger rum, Thai iced tea and Vietnamese coffee. A line of caramel marshmallows from Vosges Chocolate includes blood orange hibiscus, roasted walnut pecan, black salt coconut nib and alderwood smoked salt varieties. Toasted coconut adds a tropical twist to indulgent brittles and biscuits.

Sophisticated flavor profiles featured in new snacks include fire-roasted hatch chile, sun-dried tomato, rosemary and garlic, and maple syrup.

“Unique flavor is the name of the game,” Ms. Whiteside said, citing as examples a ginger lime milk chocolate bar and a banana rum premium snack mix.

Read on for more trends spotted at the Sweets & Snacks Expo.

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