Trend Takeaways from Sweets & Snacks Expo

Posted June 13, 2023 by Alyssa Stahr

Chicago may be saying farewell to the Sweets & Snacks Expo, which moves to Indianapolis in 2024, but there are a number of mid-2023 trends that I believe have staying power in the confectionery and snacking space.

Snacking is a supernova, according to IRI/Circana’s Sally Lyons Wyatt’s traditional trade show kick off eye-opener: The State of Snacking. And the No. 1 thing consumers say about candy is that it’s fun, according to the Getting to Know Candy Consumers session. I attended five presentations during the Expo, and they all had one thing in common: Consumers know what they want and they’re not afraid to put their dollars toward products that best serve them. Here are a few themes reflected during my time on the floor at McCormick Place’s last Expo:

Nostalgia in Candy

There aren’t many categories around the store that have a deep emotional connection like candy. Consumers are looking to engage their senses in their confectionery choices, and there is comfort in retro. David Banks of Bell Flavors said, “We like a little bit of weird mixed with the familiar.” Everything is a balance, even in candy. And the union of imagination and technology mixed with the consumer demand of less artificial tasting candy shone through in several products.

Plant-Based Power

Lyons Wyatt noted that taste and flavor actually declined and functionality rose with consumers for the first time ever. Consumers are looking for natural solutions with an inward focus, and even though chocolate is the top snack for stress relief, shoppers are looking for something that better fits their goals. Enter, plant-based chocolate. Nathan Johnson, marketing director for Hershey’s Better-for-You confection division, said that people want opportunities for wellness-focused snacking, and BFY aren’t defined necessarily by category, but by characteristic.

Better-For-You Explosion

Johnson aimed to debunk the “myth” that better-for-you can’t equate when it comes to confections and snacking products. From organic to more protein to sugar management, BFY demands were a hot topic. Offering alternative BFY products is a basket builder — 100% of BFY candy shoppers also purchase conventional candy — aiming for the “indulgence while balancing overall wellness” sweet spot. 

There’s a huge untapped demand for the BFY candy market, which is great news for product developers in the future. I can’t wait to see what other innovations hit the trade show circuit for the rest of the year and beyond. 


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