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.

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