Consumers are discovering new products in the forms of unusual colors, hot and spicy options, cooling effects, and interactive, personalized packaging, according to experts at the National Confectioner’s Association’s 2019 Sweets & Snacks Expo, May 21-23 in Chicago.

Nearly 60% of consumers under the age of 44 agree “it is important to spend money on experiences,” giving rise to the concept of “sensorial snacking,” says Jared Koerten, head of packaged food at Euromonitor International.

“One element is visual; in an Instagram world where I’m taking a picture of everything on my smartphone before I eat it, color really, really matters,” Koerten said during a presentation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. “It’s not just visual, though. It’s texture. It’s mouthfeel. It’s the idea that I want something crunchy and creamy and sweet and maybe a little salty, all at the same time.”

Nearly two-thirds of American consumers say they love to discover new flavors, according to Innova Market Insights. The industry is responding.

“What we’re seeing is increased branding efforts on discovery, with 17% annual growth in discovery claims over a five-year period,” says Mindy Hermann, senior market analyst at Innova Market Insights. “How do we define discovery? Products packaged with the words ‘discover,’ ‘explore,’ ‘uncover’ or ‘unveil.’”

Consumers are seeking adventure and novelty through global flavors. An example at the Sweets & Snacks Expo comes from Finland’s Fazer Group, which has operations in Andover, Massachusetts. The company is introducing to the US market its Nordi premium chocolate brand, featuring such flavor profiles as sea buckthorn and salty caramel, raspberry and tangy licorice, and hazelnut and coffee.

Iconic brands at the show introduced valuable consumer insights. The Hershey Company, celebrating 125 years as a category management and snacks leader, spotlighted its ongoing commitment to consumer relevance at the Sweets & Snacks Expo.

One way that Hershey’s ReSET team continues to lead the way with this shopper data is through its annual “In a Shopper’s World” retail report. Hershey recently revealed its third annual “Creating Value in a Shopper’s World” retail report, and visitors to the Sweets & Snacks Expo learned from Hershey’s insights and retail strategy teams. 

Whether consumers are shopping in-store or online, there are certain fundamentals that shoppers want their journey to include, including finding items quickly and easily, having an engaging experience, and feeling that their unique needs are understood by the retailer. For instance, according to the report, conversion rates are nearly 30% higher when retailer websites contain user-generated content. Retailers that create notable experiences will have shoppers who share their thoughts.

“We’ve uncovered a shopper value equation and translated those insights into snacks retail fundamentals that define a pathway for unlocking untapped potential,” says Phil Stanley, chief customer officer, The Hershey Company.

Introducing new sensory profiles

Image courtesy of Barry Callebaut

For foodservice bakery and pastry professionals, Barry Callebaut’s ruby offers a new and unique sensory profile — a tension between fresh berry-fruitiness and luscious smoothness — unlocked from pure cocoa beans that are specially chosen for their ruby properties, without adding berry flavors or colors.

Referred to as the fourth type, which has been welcomed by artisans, brands and consumers across the globe, ruby is now broadly available in the biggest chocolate and confectionery market, the United States, as well as Canada. Ruby will be launched in the US as ruby couverture. Ruby was spotlighted at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, featuring chef demonstrations, product application sessions and sampling.

Peter Boone, CEO and president, Barry Callebaut Americas, said that, “fueled by the overwhelming consumer response around the globe, Barry Callebaut collaborated with a small group of pioneering artisans over the last six months to soft launch ruby in the US marketplace. The sales of those consumer products have been very strong. As a result, to help ensure that our business partners have access to the product, we feel that now is the time to take the next step in our global roll-out campaign, and introduce ruby to the entire North American market.”