Every year brings a slew of flavor trends in the candy industry—some new, and some older, being revived (i.e., "newstalgia" is very trendy this year). Candy Industry Senior Editor Liz Parker recently caught up with Jennifer Zhou, global product marketing, senior director, flavors, ADM, to chat about trends in the confectionery industry.

Liz Parker: What flavors are currently trending within the candy/confectionery space?

Jennifer Zhou: Flavor trends often reflect broader shifts in consumer preferences, culinary innovations, and cultural influences. Fruity and tropical flavors have surged in popularity, with offerings like mango gummies delivering a burst of exotic sweetness, while lemon drops offer a refreshing and zesty burst of citrus that remains appealing year-round. Meanwhile, the enduring allure of berries is captured in raspberry blast lollipops, offering a delightful fusion of tartness and sweetness.

Innovative combinations are also making waves, with candies like fiery ginger gummies blending spicy and sweet notes for a thrilling taste experience. For those seeking novelty, lavender-dream chocolate truffles offer a fragrant journey into the world of floral-infused treats. Classic flavors are also receiving a modern twist, exemplified by sea salt caramel bars, where the fusing of sweet and savory creates an irresistible confection.

As consumers continue to prioritize health and wellness, the confectionery landscape has seen a rise in flavors that consumers may associate with products with wellness attributes. Acai berry energy bites or pomegranate-lime lollipops cater to this trend. 


LP: What are consumers looking for most when it comes to familiar, and also new, flavor combinations in the candy aisle?

JZ: When it comes to flavor combinations in the candy aisle, consumers often seek a delicate balance between the familiar and the novel. Familiarity brings a sense of comfort and nostalgia. The timeless duo of chocolate and peanut butter combines the rich, creamy flavor of chocolate with the nutty, salty taste of peanut butter, making it a classic favorite that appeals to a wide range of consumers. Pairing tangy fruit flavors like strawberry, raspberry, or orange with creamy elements such as vanilla also creates a delightful contrast that satisfies both sweet and refreshing cravings, while combining rich caramel with a hint of sea salt offers a perfect elevation of sweetness with a touch of savory complexity.

Familiar flavor combinations are not only comforting but reassuring. They provide a sense of trust in a product’s quality and taste, making them popular choices for consumers seeking consistency in their treats. Candy manufacturers often leverage these timeless combinations while adding their own unique variations to stand out in a competitive market.

Concurrently, the allure of new and unconventional flavor combinations cannot be understated. Adventurous consumers are increasingly seeking out unexpected flavor pairings that surprise and delight their taste buds. These novel combinations often draw inspiration from diverse culinary traditions, exotic ingredients, and emerging food trends.

Complex flavor combinations, such as spicy-sweet, savory-fruity or herb-infused blends, challenge conventional notions of taste and expand the boundaries of flavor experimentation. From the earthy complexity of matcha paired with the bright zest of citrus to the delicate harmony of lavender mingled with honey, innovative flavor pairings offer a sensory adventure that appeals to the bold spirit of consumers craving novel taste experiences.

Consumers are also drawn to complex and emerging flavor profiles that offer depth and sophistication. Combinations like rosemary and raspberry or cardamom and dark chocolate showcase the evolving palate of candy enthusiasts who appreciate the interplay of bold and nuanced flavors. These complex combinations cater to consumers' growing desire for culinary diversity and refinement, adding a gourmet experience to the candy aisle.

Candy manufacturers can anticipate continued interest in trending flavor combinations while also exploring new frontiers in flavor innovation. Botanical flavors like lavender and rose, exotic fruit pairings with spicy or herbal undertones, and fusion flavors inspired by global cuisines are likely to captivate consumers’ tastebuds with excitement and variety in their candy selections.

This year, there is an increasing trend back toward nut flavors in chocolate and sugar confectionery. This includes a specific spotlight on almond and hazelnut, whether by themselves or with the addition of salt for a fatty, savory twist on sweets. Pistachio, as both an intriguing flavor and eye-catching color, is also garnering attention, positioning well with the renewed focus on nutty notes.


LP: Any predictions for the rest of 2024 or early 2025, in terms of flavor trends?

JZ: As we move through the remainder of 2024 and into 2025, we expect to see candy flavors continue to draw inspiration from diverse cultures, health-conscious choices and inventive combinations. From the comforting nostalgia of classic flavors to the daring exploration of emerging flavors, the confectionery scene offers a rich and diverse array of taste experiences.

Health-Conscious Choices: The growing emphasis on health-conscious options has led to the rise of candies that not only feature unique flavor combinations but also align with dietary preferences. Chocolate bars studded with tart dried cranberries or almonds prove a satisfying crunch and a burst of intrinsic antioxidants. Spices like cinnamon or ginger are also popping up, offering not only nuanced flavor but also signaling functionalities that consumers may associate with products that have those flavors, appealing to those seeking purposeful indulgence.

Retro Revival: Nostalgia-driven flavors evoke fond memories of childhood treats. Whether it is the familiar taste of bubblegum-flavored lollipops reminiscent of childhood summers, the whimsy of cotton candy-inspired marshmallows evoking memories of carnivals and fairs, or root beer float flavored hard candies capturing the nostalgia of hometown soda shops, there is an ongoing revival of beloved flavors.

Plant-Based Focus: With a growing number of consumers opting for plant-based alternatives, confectionery makers are turning to flavors derived from natural sources. Coconut milk caramels provide a creamy indulgence, while fruity gummies made with real fruit juice satisfy cravings for chewy treats while catering to vegan lifestyles.

Interactive Experiences: Interactive experiences in confectionery are inviting consumers to play an active role in the creative process. DIY chocolate-making kits empower enthusiasts to craft personalized treats with their favorite flavors and toppings, while customizable candy assortments offer a mix-and-match approach.

Related: ADM exceeds 2M regenerative ag acre goal for 2023