Innovation rules at Sweets & Snacks Expo

Manufacturers and retailers of private brands, always looking to see how name brands are innovating, would probably be interested in the companies that were cited as top innovators at the National Confectioners Association’s 2018 Sweets & Snacks Expo last week in Chicago.

Innovations in candy and snacks were recognized during the show’s annual Most Innovative New Product Awards, which highlight creative, innovative and fun products new to the marketplace.

The winners were selected from more than 300 new product award entries across nine candy and snack categories: chocolate; non-chocolate; sweet; salty; savory; novelty; seasonal; gourmet/premium; and gum and mints. Product submissions were rated based on four weighted criteria: taste, packaging, innovation and go-to market feasibility.

“Innovation and new products are key drivers of treating and snacking,” said John Downs, president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association. “Our Most Innovative Product Awards celebrate creative product development by category innovators. The competition is fierce, and the companies that have been recognized should be very proud of the contributions they make to advancing the fun and enjoyment of the category.”

This year’s Best in Show award was presented to Hostess Brands LLC for its Double Chocolate Cake Delights.

The judges presented the Small Business Innovator award to Vosges Haut-Chocolate for Hazelnut Cocoa Toast. The award recognizes companies with net sales under $500,000, giving them the opportunity to gain recognition amongst with well-established peers.

This year’s winners are:

Chocolate Winner: The Hershey Company — Hershey’s Gold Standard Bar
Non-Chocolate Winner: Nestle USA/Ferrara Candy Company — Big Chewy Nerds
Sweet Snacks Winner: Justin's — Justin’s Organic White Chocolate Mini Peanut Butter Cups
Salty Snacks Winner: Sahale Snacks — Sahale Snacks Tangerine Vanilla Cashew-Macadamia Glazed Mix
Savory Snacks Winner: Alli & Rose — Trail Mix Crackers
Novelty/Licensed Winner: Impact Confections — WARHEADS Dippin’ Ring
Seasonal Winner: Ferrero U.S.A. — Golden Heart for You & Me
Gourmet Winner: That's How We Roll — Trios/Original
Gum and Mints Winner: Ferrero U.S.A. — Cool Tropical

The awards are sponsored by Chicago based market researcher IRI.

“Historically, innovation has driven about 7 percent of the growth in confections,” said Larry Levin, IRI's executive vice president of consumer and shopper marketing. “New products spark excitement for the consumer and generate more opportunities for treating.”  

To learn more about the Sweets and Snacks Expo, visit