Drawing more than 17,000 industry professionals, the Sweets & Snacks Expo features the latest innovations from more than 800 companies, including more than 200 first-time exhibitors.

CHICAGO — Mushroom chips, champagne truffles and a curry cashew chocolate bar are among new products debuting at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 23-25 in Chicago. Drawing more than 17,000 industry professionals, the annual event features the latest innovations from more than 800 companies, including more than 200 first-time exhibitors.

Susan Whiteside, vice-president of public relations and marketing communications for the National Confectioners Association, identified a few trends to watch in the latest launches from candy and snack manufacturers.

“One of the ways that something rises to the top as something we think may be a larger trend is when we see both the more traditional candy companies experimenting in the same space as some of the newer companies,” Ms. Whiteside told Food Business News during an interview prior to the event. “It’s something we’re keeping our eye on when we are seeing it from the smaller new exhibitors, and then by the time it reaches the level where we’re seeing it across multiple categories at the show or we’re seeing it from multiple sizes of exhibitors, then it has reached trend level.”

National Confectioners Association

A key theme of this year’s event, she said, relates to the recently announced commitment by a handful of leading confectionery companies to provide greater transparency, portion guidance and consumer education over the next five years.  Joined by the Partnership for a Healthier America, participating businesses include Mars, Inc., Nestle USA, Ferrero, Lindt & Sprungli and Ferrara Candy Co. The Hershey Co. separately made a similar pledge.

“We will be spreading that message to retailers and letting them know what kinds of things they can expect from the candy industry over the next five years,” Ms. Whiteside said. “The components of that commitment are around transparency, which is front-of-pack calorie labeling, portion guidance, with more packages that contain 200 calories or less per pack, and consumer education that we will support with a web site and resources for consumers who are trying to understand that unique role that candy plays in a happy and balanced lifestyle.”

By 2022, half of individually wrapped products made by the participating companies will be available in sizes that contain 200 calories or fewer per pack. Currently, more than 60% of such products produced by the companies contain less than 250 calories per pack.

National Confectioners Association

“Choosing this 200-calorie limit was a meaningful commitment for our companies to make,” Ms. Whiteside noted, adding that the goal will be met through a combination of new packaging, product reformulation and innovation.

“That’s actually what we think is one of the biggest trends at the show this year — confectioners dedicated to making the world a better place to live, whether it’s through initiatives like this one we announced with Partnership for Healthier America or through partnerships they may have developed on their own,” she said. “Candy companies are looking for ways that they can make a positive impact on the world and the communities we live in.”

Read on for seven trends in new product development featured at the Sweets & Snacks Expo.