From unique flavor blends to more cost-conscious bites, today’s new sweets and snacks hitting the store shelves in 2011 aim to satisfy ever-evolving consumer appetites. Smart, simple, flavor-packed, good value and nutrient-enhanced products led the more than 2,000 new confectionery and snack foods being revealed at the 2011 Sweets & Snacks Expo, May 24-26, at McCormick Center in Chicago.

"Trends in confectionery and snacks for 2011 reflect the larger patterns seen across the food industry-Americans are more interested in what they are eating, and are looking for new flavors to satisfy increasingly complex palates," says Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), Washington, D.C. "Consumers look for value, exciting flavors and nutrition when seeking new sweets and snacks."

Top consumer snack trends of 2011 include:

Good value
Candy and snacks continue to represent an affordable indulgence for consumers in a slow economy, demonstrated by industry sales growth over the past two years. Non-chocolate chewy items experienced additional gains in 2010 and chocolate consumption also remained on the rise, while channel growth for the category in discounters, club and drug stores reflects consumers' focus on value.

Surprising flavor combinations
Candy and snacks with dual-layers and multiple flavor profiles in one bite top the tasty trends for 2011, with new combinations, including unique blends of fruits and the addition of ingredients such as chili and mint.  

Natural and added nutrients
Whether simple and all-natural or fortified with vitamins, "smart" snacks and sweets are here to stay, including chocolate, as well as products with added vitamin C, fiber and other healthful ingredients.
Despite a lagging economy, the snacking industry posted significant gains in 2010.

The confectionery industry posted a 3.6% gain in 2010, outpacing overall growth of food sales in leading channels. Meanwhile, salty snacks experienced steady growth with a 2% gain over previous year sales. Confectionery and salty snacks rank as the fourth and sixth largest product categories in overall food sales, respectively, and first and second among snack foods. The cookie category (ranked third largest among snack foods) also held strong, experiencing half a percent growth last year.

Major sales trends that helped shape the category in 2010 include:

Chocolate confectionery lead sales in 2010, growth that is expected to continue through 2011 as new product launches will remain strong and consumer interest in potential health benefits of dark chocolate grows.

Multi-count and snack-sized packages grew 8%.

On-the-go and individual chocolate sales were up 10%.

Value products such as non-chocolate chewy items continued to gain momentum.

Data based on SymphonyIRI and NCA data.