Hunger-busting bars, plant-based snacks, fruit-filled meringues, and stuffed truffles — these were some of the new headliners on the sweets and snacks block exhibiting at the 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. The four confectionery and snack companies were among 35 up-and-comers showcased in the New Brands on the Shelf, a section reserved for Specialty Food Association member candidates.

So what do these four entrepreneurs indicate about our industry’s direction? Two companies represent seismic change-ups in the puff chip and snack bar segments. And the other two companies represent incremental innovation to traditional sweets/snacks, specifically for the meringues and truffle indulgent categories. So, let’s take a closer look.

Snack Less bars & chewing gum

Credit the investigative TV show 60 Minutes for providing Zvika Bendet with his eureka moment. An episode featured the appetite-suppressing qualities of the Hoodia parviflora cactus. Apparently, for thousands of years, Kalahari Desert bushmen have relied upon this cactus to stave off hunger during long hunting trips. Bendet saw a parallel need for curbing our cravings between meals.

Ten years of R&D work later, Bendet is now offering his products to the American market. His Snack Less brand consists of bars and chewing gum (with marketing motto: “chew your cravings away”) contains parviflora powder that supresses appetite and assists with weight management. These aren’t diet bars loaded with supplements, Bendet stresses, but tasty and functional snack bars made according to FDA (GRAS) procedures. Additionally, since his company cultivates its supply of parviflora, it maintains complete control over its entire supply chain, from desert to shelf. Snack Less products are vegan, gluten-free, and no sugar added. Bars: Date Coconut & Walnut Bar, Date, Cranberry & Cashew Bar, Date & Hazelnut Bar, and Date & Peanut Bar; 1.41 oz / 40 gr; $2.69; gums in mint, strawberry, and cinnamon flavors; $2.99

P-nuff Crunch baked peanut puffs

P-nuff was developed by Juan Salinas and launched in early 2017. With an MS in sports nutrition, PhD in food science and 30 years experience working for CPG companies, he is well qualified to develop healthy, nutritious, and tasty snacks. Riding the current food trend for plant-based proteins, his snack contains navy beans, peanuts and white rice, an ingredient list that offers 5 grams of complete protein (all nine essential amino acids). P-nuff is vegan and non-GMO.

P-nuff Crunch; 4.0 oz / 113 gr; $3.99

HB + M Chocolate Stuffed Truffles

For her entry point into the confectionery industry, company founder Christina Wu chose the premium chocolate space. As a 10-year brand marketing specialist for Mars and Cadbury, she had the professional background to spot opportunities. Avoiding the premium bar category as “too crowded,” she settled on truffles. These rather staid products seemed a bit underutilized, being traditionally consumed as special occasion treats. Wu set about re-engineering the truffle and in 2015 launched HB+M Chocolate. She increased her truffle’s size to make it a dessert serving or gift item and added baked pastry centers to provide texture and another layer of flavor. Each truffle is beautifully painted.

The truffles are available in four flavors: Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Brownie, Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroon, Milk Chocolate Fudge Brownie, and Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Blondie. 2.0 oz / 57 gr; $6.50 for a 2-count box; also available in 1-count and 5-count boxes.

Sweet Whispers gourmet fruit-filled meringues

Liliana Guerra and Maria Umana are co-owners of Sweet Whispers. They revamped the traditional meringue by including fruit fillings, an inspiration that came from their native Colombian dessert merengón, a type of meringue sheet cake topped with fruit and chantilly cream. Their company launched last year. What’s the meaning behind the company’s name? “You put this in your mouth and you immediately get a whisper of yummy sweet mixed with tangy fruit,” Umana explains.

Sweet Whispers are not only delightful as a dessert, but are perfect as coffee shop sweet accessories, hospitality treats at hotels, and gift items sold at specialty shops. They have a four-week shelf life.

Sweet Whispers are available in four flavors: Blackberry, Key Lime, Passion Fruit, and Raspberry; 2-pack $3.50 and 6-pack $9.99.

Curtis Vreeland, president of Vreeland & Associates, specializes in confectionery market research. He has been spotting trends in the premium confectionery sector for Candy Industry Magazine for years.