Taste Test


With the holidays fast approaching and food being one of the most popular holiday gifts, it’s not too early to look at some of this year’s tastiest trends in candy and specialty foods.

PPB asked Lance Stier, president of Nassau Candy Confections and vice president of business development for Nassau Candy, the largest specialty candy and gourmet food supplier, manufacturer and importer, and parent company of industry supplier Chocolate Inn / Taylor & Grant (UPIC: CHOCINN) to fill readers in on the trends. Stier spent a few weeks in June and July at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, Illinois, and at the Fancy Food Show in New York City.

I’m always on the lookout for new trends in the candy and food space that we can translate into our promotional products business, either through custom manufacturing products with our distributor customers or through offering these products through our holiday gifting items, such as tins and towers. But before I jump into the product specifics, this data helps to frame the trends you’ll read about and can be useful when selling food gifts. It’s from Packaged Facts, a publisher of market research in the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry:

  • $10-30 Retail Is The “Sweet” Spot: The majority of food gifts (53 percent) are sold in the $10-30 range per gift, with 23 percent spent in the $30-49 range and 11 percent spent for gifts more than $50. Only 14 percent of gifts are less than $10.
  • “Treat” Your Clients: 50 percent of gift givers say they give food gifts as treats—something a client would not ordinarily buy.
  • Taste, Appearance And Safety: 55 percent of food gifters cite taste as a key attribute in a food gift, 45 percent cite packaging and, importantly, 40 percent (a growing percentage) cite “buying from a trusted source” as the reason they buy food gifts.
  • Significant New Product Developments In Food and Candy: The past few years have seen significant new innovations in the food and candy markets. In fact, more than 26 percent of all consumer packaged goods introductions were from the candy and snack segment alone.


Imagine a giant convention hall filled with candy and snacks and piles of free samples to taste test. Yes, that’s the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Putting aside all the fun, candy is a big business. Candy and snack sales, on a global basis, are a $193 billion category, with $33 billion in the U.S. alone (up three percent year-over-year), according to the National Confectioners’ Association. More good news is that candy is a recession-resistant industry as evidenced by the most recent recession downturn during which candy sales grew from $27.4 billion in 2007 to $33 billion in 2013. Even when times are bad, people want their sweets—and maybe then more than ever.

So what’s making mouths water in candy these days?  Here are five trends spotted at the Sweets & Snacks Expo:

1. Go Big. Candymakers of the world are introducing giant-sized sweets such as World’s Largest Gummy Bear® (five pounds), Giant Sugar Daddy Pop® (one pound) and World’s Largest Gummy Worm® (three pounds).

2. Go Mini. Why waste the calories when you can have small indulgences such as Kit Kat® minis, mini peanut butter cups and mini unwrapped Starburst® candies?

3. Nostalgia. What’s old is new again. Products from our childhood and our parents’ childhoods are back in a big way: Bonomo® Turkish Taffy; Abba Zabba® and Nancy Adams Decade Boxes (featuring goodies from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s with items such as Wack-O-Wax Lips® and Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape®) are all the rage in specialty candy stores in 2013.

4. Unique Flavor Profiles. It’s time to get creative with flavor. As the American palette has become more adventurous, so too has its taste for unique products. Sea salt caramels have captured our desire for a salty/sweet mix. Other tasty new products from manufacturers such as Chuao Chocolatier® include potato chip chocolate bars, maple bacon bars, honeycomb bars and other fun, new flavors.

5. Hot Stuff. Tabasco®-flavored Jelly Belly® jelly beans, chipotle dark chocolate bars and spicy chocolate truffles are only a few of the hot new items exhibited at the show. With the rapid growth of new ethnic food categories in the U.S. such as Hispanic, Indian and Asian, and these cultures’ passions for spice, the flavor profiles of candy are beginning to change—for the hotter!

Specialty Food

After tantalizing my taste buds with the latest in candy land, I headed back to New York to attend the Fancy Food Show. There I was greeted by the flavors and aromas of more than 180,000 products from more than 2,400 manufacturers—all leaders and innovators of the rapidly growing specialty food segment.

The growth numbers in this category are astounding. Specialty foods, which include cheeses, coffees and salty snacks, is among the fastest growing industries in the U.S., with sales expanding by 22.1 percent between 2010 and 2012, according to Specialty Food Magazine. In 2012, dollar volume for the industry grew an impressive 14.3 percent to $86 billion while natural food retailers surged 28 percent.

Thanks to Americans dining at home nearly twice as often as eating in restaurants (a trend that accelerated during the economic downturn) and the fact that more than 67 percent of Americans consider themselves “foodies,” plus an increase in viewership of TV cooking shows and our lust for better-for-you food, Americans have become quite a society of gourmands and health nuts. Specialty Food Magazine reports sales in the top categories in specialty foods include cheese and cheese alternatives ($3.6 billion), yogurt and kefir ($2.3 billion), chips, pretzels and salty snacks ($2.2 billion), coffee, coffee substitutes and cocoa ($2.1 billion).

A quick look at the data reveals healthy choices are on the rise with sales for energy bars and gels (sold in single-serve packets) up four times what they were in 2010, from $400 million to $1.7 billion, and similar explosive growth in yogurt (especially Greek yogurt), cocoa (with high cocoa content), functional beverages (such as vitamin-enhanced water) and nuts, dried fruits and trail mixes.

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2 Responses to Taste Test

  1. Heather says:

    Food items are a terrific idea and huge seller. The only difficulty is getting them on location without the shipper doing any significant damage. Packaging continues to evolve on the supplier end which is helping.

    • Randi Matsil says:


      Thank you for your comments. We would like to speak with you and provide some information on the resiliency of our packaging. I would appreciate if you can supply your contact information


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