We love what we do here at Mercer Foods, and one of our favorite times of year is trade show and expo season. The movers and shakers, new products and old standbys come together to showcase the latest and greatest in products, innovation, and trends.

The Sweets & Snacks Expo is exactly what it sounds like — sweets and snacks, as far as the eye can see. While an immediate sugar rush may come to mind, the top trends that stood out this year were a healthy, creative group that pushed the envelope on the snack industry in new and exciting ways.

We love what we do here at Mercer Foods, and one of our favorite times of year is trade show and expo season.

1. Popcorn everything

Popcorn has been trending steadily over the recent years, so it was no surprise to see dozens of brands with hundreds of different flavors, from mild to crazy. The recipes featured indulgent ingredients like sugar and sodium, but still somehow managed to convey a healthy halo.

2. Clear segmentation of snack groups

The division of snacks was clear across the board, with an obvious divide between the two main groups: highly indulgent and taste-driven, or highly healthy and nutrition-driven. Caught in the “no man’s land” in the middle were struggling items trying to be all things to all shoppers.

3. Going nuts for nuts

The benefits of nuts have long been known, and this has given way to hundreds of new items and flavors incorporating every nut out there.

4. Jerky done right

Jerky is making a strong comeback, with many brands championing their local, artisan, hand-crafted credentials. “Western Adventure” and “Old West Heritage” were common branding themes on the floor.

5. Garage brands

This is a newer term being thrown around the industry, and it points to smaller, entrepreneurial companies that are on the cusp of making it big. These small brands are seen as fresh, vital, on trend, and industry innovators.

6. Wild and new, tried and true

Crazy, weird, and totally out-there ideas were offered just down the aisle from traditional confection and cookie brands dating back to the 1800s.

7. Bar takeover

Bars of all kinds are expanding into spaces once held by cookies, confections, and snacks. Some nutrition bars are being packaged to look like candy bars, and the line between the two is blurring.

8. Sugar sheds its bad reputation

Most of the confection leaders had prominently displayed statements of commitment to solving the epidemic of diabetes and nutrition-related health problems, keeping consumer transparency top of mind. Portion control, moderation, and smart choices were key themes.

9. Chocolate remix

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere! No matter how many chocolate formulas, shapes, and inclusions there are, hundreds more appear every year. There is truly no upper limit to the consumer’s love of chocolate.

10. Rainbow bright

Day-glo pink, clown-nose red, greens that glow in the dark. Super bright, larger-than-life color-infused snacks and sweets (some healthy, some not, but all fun) were popping up at every corner.
Were you at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago? We would love to hear how your experience was and what trends stuck with you. Connect with Mercer Foods on Twitter or Facebook today!