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Consumer Trends: Top Sweets & Snacks Trends

Fun fruits and shared sweets, foreign flavors and healthy snacks are emerging as the 2012 trends to meet the ever-evolving appetites of consumers.  Thousands of new confectionery and snack foods will be revealed May 8 – 10 during the 2012 SWEETS & SNACKS EXPO® in Chicago. The SWEETS & SNACKS EXPO® features the hottest new products from more than 560 companies leading the industry with the new flavors that meet consumers' tastes and invite them to unwrap a little happiness.

CHICAGO, Ill. (PRNewswire) — Fun fruits and shared sweets, foreign flavors and healthy snacks are emerging as the 2012 trends to meet the ever-evolving appetites of consumers.  Thousands of new confectionery and snack foods will be revealed May 8 – 10 during the 2012 SWEETS & SNACKS EXPO® in Chicago. The SWEETS & SNACKS EXPO® features the hottest new products from more than 560 companies leading the industry with the new flavors that meet consumers' tastes and invite them to unwrap a little happiness. 

The National Confectioners Association took to the streets to measure the Happiness Quotient of Chicagoans this week, before and after receiving a small "Happiness" bag filled with a few pieces of candy.  One hundred percent of those surveyed reported that even the small bag of candy brought happiness to their day, increasing their happiness quotient by an average of 22 percent. Additionally, the survey revealed that consumers choose to snack because they like the taste (29 percent), and because snack food brings them happiness (29 percent).*

"Trends in confectionery and snacks for 2012 are pushing new boundaries. As consumer palates become more complex, flavor profiles across the industry are doing the same," said Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association. "People are looking beyond borders and convention for what's next; whether its crunchy snacks with Asian or Mediterranean influences, the growing popularity of all things salty and sweet, or tropical fruit flavors such as mango."

Top Consumer Snack Trends 2012:

  • Sweets are for Sharing
    Consumers celebrate "sweet" moments in life together by indulging in affordable treats.  "Share bags" – stand-up bags to share with family and friends and informally gift to others – and theater boxes have increased in popularity and are becoming more widely available at retail.  
  • Perfect Pairings: Sweet & Salty
    The widely popular pairing of "salty and sweet" remains an American favorite.  This year there are a variety of new products with this flavor coupling, from milk chocolate-covered raisins and peanuts to cinnamon sugar popcorn, chocolate-covered pretzels, potato chips and more!  
  • Flavors Beyond Borders
    In addition to the popularity of all things sweet and salty, snacks with Middle Eastern, Asian and Mediterranean-influenced flavors are popping up on store shelves. A number of snacks coming to market are based on chickpeas, lentils and seaweed, providing alternative choices to American classics such as potato chips, corn tortilla chips and wheat crackers. 
  • Mango Mania
    A new generation of tropical fruit flavors is appearing on store shelves – with mango leading the way.  Pairing mango with pineapple, orange, coconut and strawberry to create new confectionery flavors is gaining popularity, but the tropical fruit is also making its way to the snack aisle, from freeze dried fruits to mouth-watering salsas and more. 
  • Packing a Healthy Punch
    Healthy snacking continues to gain momentum this year.  The top growing snack item is nutritional health bars* and many new snacks provide a variety of health advantages.  Whether gluten-free, all-natural, made from whole grains, or including B vitamins and antioxidants, there's no doubt consumers can find a snack packing the healthy punch they want. 

*Based on Symphony IRI 52 weeks ending March 18, 2012

State of the Industry

Despite a difficult economy, consumer dollars spent on confectionery products at retail continue to rise: 

  • The confectionery industry contributes $32 billion+ to U.S. retail sales and employs more than 70,000 workers.
  • Confectionery retail sales have grown steadily since 2007, increasing from $27.4 billion to $32.1 billion in 2011+.
  • Valentine's Day confectionery sales totaled $972 million; Easter totaled $2.107 billion and Halloween brought in $2.356 billion. Winter holiday sales totaled  $1.49 billion.

Confectionery (chocolate, candy and gum) ranks as the fourth largest product category in overall food sales and is ranked first when combined with other types of snacks like savory treats and cookies*. These combined snack categories saw retail sales increase a total of 4.7 percent in 2011*. At $80 billion, sweets and snacks account for about 10 percent of total store sales+.

* Based on SymphonyIRI data

+ NCA estimates.

Industry Reports on 2011 Product Announcements and Sales *

In 2011, thousands of new confectionery and snack products debuted to meet consumer demand. These included: 

  • 1,563 new confectionery products:
    • Chocolate: 895
    • Sugar Confectionery (non-chocolate): 512
    • Gum: 156
  • 3,231 new snack, cookie and cracker products:
    • Cookies: 634
    • Crackers: 287
    • Potato chips: 382
    • Popcorn: 114
    • Nuts and seeds: 461
    • Cereal bars: 357
    • Other savory snacks (pretzels, tortilla chips, puffed snacks, fruit snacks, meat snacks, etc.): 844
    • Processed Snacks (tortilla chips, corn chips, other non-potato chips): 152     

*Datamonitor's Product Launch Analytics online database of new U.S. products SKUs 2011

** NCA Happiness Quotient Survey conducted, May 6-7, 2012, via an in-person survey of 600 men and women.

About the National Confectioners Association (NCA) - The National Confectioners Association fosters industry growth by advancing the interests of the confectionery industry and its customers. Serving as the voice of the industry, the Association advocates for the needs of the industry before government bodies, helps the industry understand and implement food safety and other regulations, provides information to help members strengthen business in today's competitive environment and creates relationships between all sectors of the industry including manufacturers, brokers, trade customers, suppliers to the industry and our consumers.

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