As the popularity of snacking continues, Americans are balancing their desires for taste and health. While nearly three quarters of consumers wish there were more healthy snack options, more than three in five agree taste is more important than how healthy the snack is for them. This balance between health and indulgence was reflected at the recent National Confectioners Association’s 2016 Sweet & Snacks Expo, which showcased new candy and snack products from global manufacturers, both large and small. Here we explore six trends in sweets and snacks that emerged from the show: Fruit & Veg Forward Fruit and vegetable-based snacks were very visible at the expo across sweet and savory categories. Fruit offerings included dried and freeze-dried versions, as well as chocolate dripped or coated varieties. Banana proved to be a common ingredient, especially in chips and granola bars. Fruit and vegetable-based chips were also popular, including Tropical Fields’ Crispy Onion Chips. Snack Factory debuted its Fruit Sticks line available in Apple, Apple Cinnamon and Apple Strawberry varieties, which include the equivalent of five to six apples per bag. Hybrid Snacks Snack segment blurring is becoming increasingly popular, especially for a meat and chips snacking combo. While the 2015 expo had a strong showing for meat snacks, this year it was all about meat snack hybrids. Meat snack trail mixes and meat snack nutrition bars were quite popular. Several brands, including Tanka, Farmer’s Pantry and Oberto, followed in Epic’s footsteps, which claims to be the first to have introduced meat snack trail mix. Additionally, several brands including Brick’s and Krave introduced meat snack protein bars. Krave’s meat snack protein bars are the first collaborate effort between Hershey’s and Krave since the latter was acquired by Hershey’s in 2015. The Krave protein bars will be available in August 2016. There were even meat snack chocolate bars from Vosges Haut-Chocolat’s sister brand, Wild Ophelia.Other hybrid snacks included trail mix cookies, crispbread crackers and many alternative-based chips, including naan chips, pizza crust chips and cannoli chips. Emojis Everywhere Mintel Trend, Without Words, was very prevalent at the show. The Trend explains how the way in which people communicate is changing, with sentences shortening and or being replaced with emojis that can be understood quickly and by a global audience. Emojis in particular appeared all over the show floor, on chocolate packaging and even Pez dispensers.There was also a dedicated brand, Emojeez, producing emoji-shaped gummies and fruit snacks. What’s Old is New Sometimes innovation is as simple as taking an existing product and making a tweak to its format. Several longstanding brands used consumer familiarity and favorability to their advantage by introducing new formats. Cadbury introduced Crème Egg Cookies, while Hershey’s launched Mixers, a line of candy mixes including Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Pieces and Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Crème that can be used as an ice cream topping. Jelly bean brand, Jelly Belly, introduced an organic product line, while Starburst launched soft gummies in sour and traditional flavors. The Best of Show winner was Reese’s Pieces Big Cup, a larger Reese’s peanut butter cup filled with mini Reese’s Pieces, coming to stores in July. On the savory side, popchips launched several Ridges varieties, including Chili Cheese, and Tangy Barbecue while Kettle Brand introduced several potato chip varieties cooked in avocado oil. Global Influences International flavors had a strong influence on new products at the show, especially within salty snack segments. Popcorn flavors from Pop Art included Tandoori Yogurt, Thai Coconut Curry and Nori Sesame. Asian flavors including Kung Pao and Siracha also were popular among the meat snack segment. Nestle introduced its Turkish Damak brand which is launching in the US and features creamy chocolate and Turkish pistachios. Simple + Real In addition to a desire for both health and indulgence, consumers want snacks with ingredients they recognize. Many brands featured simple ingredient statements and emphasized a lack of artificial colors or flavors. Himalania Brand introduced chocolate covered goji berries, chia seeds and hemp sees, while brand Extreme Health USA showcased its line of dark chocolate covered cacao nibs, pomegranate arils, mulberries, chia seeds, and acai berries. Other showcased products included brands offering familiar products with better-for-you positioning. Deep River Snacks’ Honchos brand of organic tortilla chips feature no artificial ingredients, while Project 7 showcased its line of gummies made without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. What these trends mean for brands While Americans are snacking more than ever, the variety of sweet and savory snacks continues to grow. New snacks on display at the 2016 Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago reflect consumer preferences for simple products with minimal ingredients, unique flavors and new formats. The variety of flavors and formats was extensive, as was the amount of new products on the show floor. Hybrid snacks and new variations on traditional products are keeping snacks exciting for consumers, while-better-for-you products and simple ingredients are helping consumers snack responsibly. To learn more about consumer attitudes, preferences and behaviors in the US Snacking category, check out our latest Mintel Report here. Amanda Topper is a Senior Food Analyst at Mintel. She is responsible for writing monthly analysis reports providing strategic insight and consultancy across several categories from gluten-free foods and cheese to cereal and snacks. 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