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    Trends & Connections at Sweets & Snacks Expo

    Attendees explore methods of reaching shoppers as the annual event concludes.

    By Angela Hanson, Convenience Store News

    CHICAGO - Spicy, salty and sweet, and superfruits were some of the notable trends seen on the exhibit floor of the National Confectioners Association's (NCA) 2014 Sweets & Snacks Expo, which concludes Thursday at Chicago's McCormick Place.

    Greek yogurt is also making its way from the dairy section to the snack aisle, with multiple vendors offering it as a coating for pretzels and other snack items. Quite a few products featuring chili powder as a light coating or mix-in ingredient were also available, as was sea salt paired with chocolate items.

    Additionally, multiple vendors offered dark chocolate candy pieces with a fruit filling, such as blueberry, pomegranate or other fruit with perceived antioxidant value or other health benefits. Some suppliers told CSNews Online that they believe this means consumers are interested in trying new and different flavors and adding better-for-you products to their diet, but they still want the familiarity of the treats they love.

    This was reflected as well in the results of the Most Innovative New Product Awards, presented during Wednesday's keynote session. This year's category winners include:

    • Chocolate: Tabasco Dark Spicy Chocolate Wedges, The Chocolate Traveler
    • Non-Chocolate: Jelly Belly Draft Beer Jelly Beans, Jelly Belly Candy Co.
    • Seasonal: Doodle Egg, Vigneri Natural Chocolate
    • Novelty/Licensed: Sour Farts Flow Pack, Leaf Brands/Astro Pop LLC
    • Salty Snacks: Show Me The Honey Coconut  Chips, Bare Snacks
    • Gourmet/Premium: Bark Thins Dark Chocolate Toasted Coconut with Almonds, Ripple Brands Collective
    • Gum & Mints: Project 7 Coconut Lime, Project 7
    • Savory Snacks: Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce Popcorn, POP! Gourmet Popcorn

    This year's awards also featured a Best In Show Award, chosen through a combination of expert panel judging and votes from attendees. The Hershey Co.'s York Minis won this inaugural award.


    Along with the Most Innovative New Product Awards, Wednesday’s keynote session included further commentary from Larry Levin, executive vice president of industry insights for Information Resources Inc., and NCA Vice President of Customer Relations Larry Wilson, who discussed the importance of profiling customer segments, meeting their needs and giving them reasons to be passionate about the brands they enjoy.

    Although he noted that the path to purchase starts "way before they get to the store," Wilson stressed that the in-aisle experience drives success, and retailers need to make that experience simple and positive for shoppers.

    "Variety comes with a challenge: it needs to be well-organized," Wilson said.

    NBC News Chief Medical Editor Nancy Snyderman also served as a keynote speaker, discussing ways people can balance enjoying candy and snacks with a healthy lifestyle.

    "Candy connects us," Snyderman said, adding that "we need to reclaim the word 'rationing'" because everyone does it –- and it isn't a bad thing. "If you deprive people of things, they'll get it anyway in bigger amounts and gorge."

    Exploring the minds and decision-making processes of shoppers was a main subject during the Shopper Solutions Theater session, "What Motivates Shoppers?", presented by Doug Van Andel, senior vice president and North America executive creative officer for Saatchi & Saatchi X.

    "You've got five senses to work with," Van Andel said, stressing the power of suppliers and marketers to create lasting emotional connections from positive memories. Of candy, he said, "Nobody needs you – everybody wants you," and it's easier to love a desire than a need.

    He urged Sweets & Snacks Expo attendees to establish retail fundamentals and then strive for ease of navigation, education and inspiration in store displays, and to remember the four Es: emotion, engagement, environment and experience.

    By Angela Hanson, Convenience Store News
    • About Angela Hanson Angela Hanson is associate editor for EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News, where she is responsible for primary coverage of the candy, snacks and packaged beverages categories. Since joining CSNews as assistant editor in early 2011, she has played a key role in helping CSNews.com maintain its position as the No. 1 news source for the convenience store industry. Prior to joining CSNews, Hanson served as junior editor at Creative Homeowner book press and as managing editor of Anime Insider magazine. She has degrees in creative writing and visual communication technology from Bowling Green State University.

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