CHICAGO — The Hershey Co. is leaning into instant consumables innovation to shape new snacking occasions.

The company last year launched Reese’s Snack Cakes. Positioned as a mid-morning snack, the product features soft-baked chocolate cake topped with peanut butter crème and covered in milk chocolate. A new addition to the morning lineup showcased at the National Association of Convenience Stores’ 2021 NACS Show features peanuts for an added crunch.

Reese’s Crunchy Snack Cakes tap into consumer excitement for new occasions, said Todd Scott, manager of corporate brand and editorial for the Hershey Co. The original snack cake became a top 10 item in the category within six months, he said, and data from Explorer Research show 50% of snack cake users are willing to try new brands.

“We're constantly researching and staying in touch with consumers, because we want to meet them where they are,” he told Food Business News during an interview at the 2021 NACS Show, held Oct. 5-8 in Chicago. “One of the things that we discovered was that in mid-morning, consumers are looking to transition to snacks that may be a bit more indulgent. That’s what led to us introducing the creamy snacks cakes a year ago. It’s done so well in the market that we decided to take the next step with it.”

Other confections on display at the NACS show included the new Reese’s Snack Bar and the upcoming Reese’s Big Cup with Potato Chips. The snack bar features a layer of whole grain rice mixed with bits of crunchy roasted peanuts, topped with peanut butter crème and bottomed in milk chocolate.

Hershey is positioning the additions as afternoon pick-me-ups based on research that found satiety becomes more important to consumers as the day progresses.

Reese's Snack Bar

“We discovered that consumers are really looking to transition to a snack that offers some indulgence but also that feeling of satiation in the late afternoon,” Mr. Scott said.

The launch of Reese’s Big Cup with Potato Chips follows the launch of Reese’s Stuffed with Pretzels last year. Pretzels were the No. 1 ingredient people wanted to see added to Reese’s treats, Mr. Scott said.

“The second most asked-for ingredient inclusion was potato chips,” he said. “It gives people that sweet and salty combination and helps be that bridge where it’s not quite meal replacement, but it really satisfies hunger. Moving to pretzels and then potato chips is a natural evolution of offering different sensory experiences.”

Creating new experiences is the goal of flavor-forward KitKat innovation. Recent additions include KitKat Duos Mint + Dark Chocolate and KitKat Duos Mocha + Chocolate, plus a range of limited-edition flavors like birthday cake, pumpkin pie, raspberry crème, apple pie and lemon crisp.

Next on the slate is KitKat Duos Strawberry + Dark Chocolate.

“This is the next step in this journey we’ve been on, where we’re taking the standard KitKat and adding a slightly new experience because of consumers’ desire to try something new,” Mr. Scott said.

Hershey also is bringing new flavors to its Ice Breakers brand, tapping into the beverage-inspired treats trend with new cherry limeade gum and mints.