CHICAGO — Among some of the hottest new flavors hitting the snack aisle are toasted coconut, smoked Gouda and Saigon cinnamon.  Products on display at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 24-26 in Chicago, appeal to the adventurous palate.

“A lot of the flavors this year are very big and very bold,” said Susan Whiteside, vice-president of public relations and marketing communications for the Washington-based National Confectioners Association, which hosts the annual event. “Things that are kitchen-inspired.”

Before the expo, Ms. Whiteside spoke with Food Business News about a few trends to watch in the latest launches from candy and snack manufacturers.

“We’re also seeing a lot of innovative ingredients that are part of the product but aren’t necessarily part of the flavor for that product,” she said, citing caramels made with coconut milk and coconut palm sugar, and products featuring chia seeds or pumpkin seeds as examples.

Another top trend is chocolate and fruit combinations, sales of which have increased 116% in the last three years, Ms. Whiteside said.

“We’re seeing a large number of innovative fruit and nut products and unusual pairings,” she added. “It’s not just chocolate-covered blueberries anymore, though that’s certainly very popular, but (product developers are) really thinking about flavor combinations that pair really well together.”

Drawing more than 16,000 industry professionals, this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo has grown to feature more than 750 exhibiting companies, comprising four acres of candy and snack products.

“We’ve added a new hall, which has increased our floor space by 22% and allowed us to bring in more than 200 new companies,” Ms. Whiteside said.

Click for a slideshow of seven new product trends at Sweets & Snacks.