CHICAGO — The latest flavor trends and consumer preferences guide product development at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, a division of Mars, Inc., which unveiled a spate of innovation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 22-24 in Chicago.

An example is M&M’s White Chocolate Peanut, building on the success of last year’s introduction of M&M’s White Chocolate candies, said Tim Quinn, vice-president of trade development.

“The white chocolate segment is continuing to grow, 7% over the last three years, which is significantly higher than the overall category’s growth,” Mr. Quinn told Food Business News. "Some of the items we have are leading that trend."

 Twix White Chocolate Cookie Bars, previously a limited offering, has now gained a permanent position in the portfolio, he said.

“Convenience stores are having trouble keeping the supply in there,” Mr. Quinn said. “It’s very big hit.”

Sour candies continue to surge in popularity, sparking the launches of Starburst Minis Sours and Starburst Gummies Sour Berries.

“The sour segment is the fastest growing flavor segment in fruity confections,” Mr. Quinn said.

Berry, another trending flavor profile, appears in new Juicy Fruit Collisions gum, featuring strawberry watermelon and tropical berry varieties.

New chocolate bars hitting the market include Milky Way Fudge, featuring chocolate, caramel and fudge nougat, and Snickers Salty & Sweet, which is launching in multiple formats including miniatures, Mr. Quinn said.

“Sweet and salty is certainly on trend right now,” he said. “It’s the No. 1 snacks flavor combination.”

Another recent addition to the M&M’s lineup is M&M’s Snack Mix, featuring a sweet and salty combination of the brand's milk chocolate candies, crunchy pretzel bites and peanuts or almonds.

“Everyone seems to have a snack mix these days, and more than 90% of them include M&M’s chocolate candies in those snack mixes, so we decided, why don’t we just do it on our own?” Mr. Quinn said. “Millennials are snacking more frequently, so this is a good time for an entry into that category.”

Mars M&Ms Flavor VoteM&M’s Flavor Vote campaign in its third year continues to gain momentum, featuring three limited-edition varieties that may be selected for a long-term spot on shelves. The latest round includes crunchy espresso, crunchy mint and crunchy raspberry, each with a rice crisp center. A winner will be announced in August.

Mr. Quinn said next year’s M&M’s Flavor Vote program will include “flavors from around the world.” He declined to reveal the specific flavors that will be featured, but he said, “they all taste great.”

“We’re actually going to get behind this even more than we have for the last couple Flavor Votes,” he added.