5 attention-grabbing products from the 25th Sweets & Snacks Expo

As nearly 16,000 people inundated Chicago last week for the 25th Sweets & Snacks Expo, iconic food giants such as Hershey, PepsiCo and Mondelēz International debuted many of their new or signature offerings with large displays and prominent signage.

But some of the products on display at the trade show and conference went beyond the signature chocolates, gummies, pretzels and chips these giants are known for. Hidden among the close to 700 exhibitors and 4.5 acres of candy and snack innovations were some novel product offerings their creators hope will catch on with consumers and come to define the category in the future.

Some of the offerings are new. Some have been around for a few years. The one thing they have in common is they’re either looking for their big break or to further expand in a food space deluged with choice.

Here are five brands that caught our attention:

Here comes the sun

Inspiration can come in the most unique places and Jeff Noble’s experience is no exception.

Two years ago, the executive at Mooney Farms, a processor of sun-dried tomatoes, was walking a Michigan golf course chewing on one of the company’s products when an idea came to him. With the right flavor and texture, he thought the company could develop and sell a tomato-based jerky. 

Just two months after pitching the idea to owner Mary Mooney, the company behind the Bella Sun Luci brand launched the offering in the market. The product is available in two flavors: Sriracha and Teriyaki & Cracked Pepper. Each non-GMO serving has six grams of protein and fiber.

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Christopher Doering/Food Dive

 

“We have a lot of positive benefits consumers want: a plant-based, fiber, jerky, and a fairly straightforward clean label,” said Noble, vice president of sales and innovation at Mooney Farms.

Despite a recent uptick in distribution, the product’s launch has been slowed by retailers’ reluctance during COVID-19 to bring new offerings to shelves and recent supply chain headaches. Still, with millions in annual sales, Mooney can afford to wait and so far remains firmly behind the brand extension.

“We got the strength to continue to push through and make this happen,” he said. “A good idea is a good idea. And you can’t give up on it.”

Smog and toxic waste infiltrate candy

A look at Candy Dynamics’ offerings could cause even the most adventurous consumer to pause: Sour Smog Balls, Toxic Waste Hazardously Sour Candy and Slime Licker Sour Rolling Liquid Candy.

But despite the names, the Indiana-based company is “posting healthy sales and brand awareness” as its core audience of younger consumers, influenced by social media platforms like TikTok, gravitate toward its products.

“They’re different, unique. They are a little edgy,” said Laura King, Candy Dynamics’ president.

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Christopher Doering/Food Dive

 

The company’s first launch came in 2001 with Toxic Waste Hazardously Sour Candy — a treat packaged in a circular yellow drum that today remains its top seller. Each hard candy has an initial wave of sour before the consumer reaches its super-sour inside core. 

Candy Dynamics has since expanded into other treats like Slime Licker Sour Rolling Liquid Candy that the consumer moves back and forth on their tongue. It also is licensing its brands into plush items, lip balms, toys and other items.

To promote its offerings and connect with kids, Candy Dynamics uses cartoon characters like Hazmat the Lab Rat, Mr. Toxie Head and Professor Sauernoggin to draw attention to issues such as recycling, safe handling and proper disposal of hazardous waste and protecting the water supply.

“It might be edgy names, but there’s a messaging behind it,” King promised.

Iced, iced coffee

As consumers look for novel ways to enjoy their favorite products, a young upstart with a familiar connection has taken that concept to a new extreme — starting with coffee.