Emerging markets

‘Back to basics’: real fruit and functionality moving the needle at Sweets & Snacks

By Kristine Sherred

- Last updated on GMT

‘Back to basics’: real fruit and functionality moving the needle at Sweets & Snacks

Related tags Sweets&Snacks Expo Chocolate Functional ingredients Healthy snacks Fruit Vegetable Basic food flavors Portion size Packaging and labeling Premium chocolate

We talked with Euromonitor analyst Jared Koerten at the National Confectioners Association’s annual expo in Chicago about the rise of premium snacks, textured candies, functional ingredients and consumption occasions. Here’s what he had to say.*

What do you see as the driving factors behind the trend of premiumization in snacks?

JK​: The idea of sourcing is very, very important. We’re seeing a lot of ethically sourced, locally sourced, organically sourced ingredients – people who don’t want GMOs or pesticides. And then curation: how those ingredients are pulled together is really important. Diverse flavors [and] unique textures are really important, and even functionality.

The second idea is packaging: How does that product look on the shelf? Whether it’s materials, foil, stand-up pouches, boxes or tins, to functional packaging – grab-and-go and seasonal packaging is really important.

The last element is channel – so ingredient, packaging and channel are really the three major drivers or frontiers of premiumization​. Thinking about specialty stores and boutiques. Even travel retail is an element of premiumization. All of these are working together in unique ways to create more premium offerings within snacks to reach a wider range of consumers.

Can you talk about the premiumization of chocolate and the candies here? Is there anything that really stands out?

JK​: We’re continuing to see people moving toward darker chocolate; there’s a lot of interest in functionality in that way. We had the big launch of ruby chocolate the show – a very different flavor dynamic when it comes to ruby and, of course, a different appearance.

Texture is becoming an important element of chocolate. Looking at elements like the M&M’s Hazelnut Cream with this idea of creamy hazelnut butter inside of an M&M, or the M&M’s tablet where you have chocolate with the little crunchy pieces of the M&M – that multifaceted texture within chocolate.

There’s a lot of candy here, and a lot of nostalgic candy here. Have you noticed trends in health and wellness, or fiber, or other trends talked about today?

JK​: Functionality is really where a lot of that innovation is happening. Probiotics is one area we’ve seen a lot of innovation here at the show. It’s usually a place where you saw it in the chilled cabinet – yogurts, yogurt drinks, chilled snack bars. With the launch of more shelf stable variants of probiotics, we’re seeing them move into chocolate, puffed snacks, snack bars. There’s a lot of interest in gut health and digestive health, so that’s really helping push probiotics and fiber within snacks.

Other elements like caffeine or collagen, omegas, even things like aloe vera we’re seeing in snack products – as people turn to snacks as more than just an indulgence, but looking for an additional health benefit. Everything from caffeine to wake you up in the morning to something to help you relax and fall asleep that night all coming through in snack innovations this year. 

On pack sizes, between single-serving and resealability, is there one of those things that seems to be winning that battle here, or is it an even playing field between portion control and sharing – which I’ve heard a lot from folks on the floor today.

JK​: It’s almost like there are two different consumption occasions that are driving these two elements. One is that at-home consumption: I’m sitting in front of that TV and I want to reseal it when I’m done.

When it comes to those grab-and-go elements, those are really becoming popular with parents and people who want to pack lunches. You buy the multipack and you can [grab] the bag of chips or candy bar on your way out the door.

We’re also seeing this in the club channel, where you can buy these big boxes with a lot of these individual multipacks. We’re seeing ecommerce retailers moving more and more into these, too: Amazon is trying to sell bigger pack sizes to drive profitability, rather than single-serve which is hard to sell online.

Are there a few products that have really stood out to you as driving the movement – whether it’s toward premiumization or functionality? Are there examples of some products that are really pushing the envelope, or something you thought might have disappeared but has stuck around?

JK​: One thing I think we saw this year in kind of a unique way is this push toward real fruit and real vegetable snacks.

Two or three years ago, we were talking about ancient grains and how those were moving into all different areas of snacks, but this seems to have been replaced with the rise of real fruit snacks – freeze dried, dehydrated fruit, fruit clusters or fruit nut clusters. This idea of going back to real food as the foundation for [many] of these snack products is really coming back in some unique ways.

Consumers are trying to get more fruits and vegetables in their diet – things like mushrooms are coming through. Even cheese: we think about the parmesan crisps we’ve seen; it’s literally just cheese that’s been dried out and made into some sort of bar with some flavoring.

People are looking to get back to basics – back to fruit, back to vegetables, real cheese – and turning toward these very simple ingredient snacks here at the Expo.

*Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

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