Sweets & Snacks Expo Delivers Mood Boosting, Trendy Event

Posted July 1, 2021 by Alyssa Stahr

The first in-person event in a year and a half for the Brightly Creative team had me in all my feels — but I wasn’t the only one. A major theme of the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Indianapolis was the emotional and wellness factors of food.

The Discovery Theater showcased a number of dynamic speakers throughout the three-day Expo. Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for the NPD Group’s “Generational Snacking After COVID-19” served up an interesting deep dive into the millennial, Gen X, Gen Z, Boomer and even Gen Alpha — they aren’t born yet — influences on consumer behavior in the candy and snacking industries. Life stages are important, but they also drive how we eat. There is a clear shift to wellness and emotional needs, food as medicine and more frank discussion about mental health. 

Seifer explained that these behaviors, such as snacking during the day, screen time, mood affecting our eating habits, etc., were already happening, but they accelerated because of COVID. He predicted that morning will continue to drive growth after the pandemic subsides, and midday snacking will lag behind. Snacking with meals — like having chips with a sandwich — will certainly continue, but will shift to more health-oriented choices, especially in the morning and during the day with fruit, yogurt or nuts. Night snacking will be driven by the stresses of the day and will be just as indulgent as before.

Coming as no surprise is that screen time is associated with snacking time, along with our moods. When we get bored, stressed, sad, cranky and anxious, we snack. The direct correlation is tied to three major snack food need states, according to NPD’s research:

Health: Be well and better options are major motivators. 

Functional: Hold me over until the next meal; grab and go via portable single serve options; and make it easy through simple availability are drivers in this state.

Emotional: Favorite routines; foods that satisfy a craving, reward, or celebrate special moments; and snacks that are provided or supplied, for example, at a child’s birthday party, will grow. 

Seifer noted that the shift to wellness is driven by Gen Z, who “will talk about mental health to anyone who will listen,” via TikTok and other social media means. We saw a number of anti-inflammatory and functional products on the show floor, along with the shift to guilt-free indulgence. Permissible indulgence is rising, not necessarily fully for health, but more of a mixture. 

We saw companies adding a little extra to entice the consumer and connect, which reflected NPD’s research. From popcorn without the hull for a tooth-friendly experience; to trend-friendly marketing with packaging noting keto, omega-3s or grass-fed or sugar-free; to personalized fudge made on the spot; there is a huge driver for the consumer’s well-being and happiness, no matter what life stage or mood they may be in. 

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