We didn't need to travel around the globe to find the best snacks in the world. This week we had the chance to revisit the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago and had a great time. There were more vendors and more varieties of snacks than ever before. There were more than 15,000 industry attendes with participants from 70 countries. Innovation Awards were also given for top new items taste-tested in 8 different categories.
With our friends from Hawaiian Host
Sweet snacks, salty snacks, healthy snacks, not-so-healthy snacks, classics and newcomers all had their chance to show their best for this two-day snack fest.
This year the key take-aways were - small, healthy and different. Minis, bite-size, small pouches - anything that lets the consumer have small portions were a big hit. The idea is that Millennials crave variety and Baby Boomers want great taste without all the calories. That paves the way for little bites of favorite snacks like Milky Way, Snickers and Starburst. Healthful alternatives are also a trend, with many products touting their Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, GMO-free properties. More new products in every categorie were introduced in 2013 and there are lots of creative people out there wanting you to try their unique offerings. Here's a snapshot of a few that caught our attention this year.
First up: The Different. The guys from Van Holten's that make the Pickles-In-A-Pouch came up with Dill Pickle Flavored Popcorn. It may sound a bit strange but we tried it and, believe it or not, it's delicious. They couldn't keep the sample cups filled fast enough and it's clear that this little treat was a hit.
Next: Healthful Sweets. If you're looking for something sweet and delcious try some Surf Sweets. These organic and natural candy comes in easy to transport small pouches great for traveling or just throwing in your purse or pocket. They contain no high-fructose corn syrup, are free of artificial flavors and sweetners, peanut-free, gluten-free, and GMO-free. Our favorite was the Sour Berry Bears. They're available at Whole Foods and a lot of other stores near you. Check their website for the details.
Then - Good 'n Salty: If you go for salty, crunchy snacks you might want to try Cosmos Creations' Sea Salt and Butter Baked Corn Creations. Oven-baked with a light touch of butter flavor and real sea salt. Made from pure, natural ingredients these little crunchers are tasty and better for you. They are also gluten-free, trans fat-free, made from non-GMO corn, with no kernels and no hulls. They also have Cinnamon Crunch, Salted Carmel, and Carmel Creations that are just as delicious. Check out their website on where you can find them in your neighborhood.
Ruby Bay Salmon Jerky
How About Some Protein? Jerky's the Word: If you're looking for some protein there are always plenty of dried meat products at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Beef sticks and beef jerky have been around for years and the category keeps getting bigger and bigger now that women are also a large part of the target market. So it's no surprise that leaner options are entering the market. Turkey jerky and bison jerky are great alternatives to beef. But one we hadn't sampled before is the Ruby Bay King Salmon Jerky. Available in 3 flavors this jerky is tasty and sure to please any fish lover's taste for snacks. Our favorite flavor was the orange ginger. Check their website for the retail dealer close to you.
Johnsonville Bacon Jerky
And then, there's Bacon: Of course, we saved the best for last. If you just crave a decadent snack and aren't counting calories, then you should definitely try the new Sweet Maple Glazed Bacon Jerky from Johnsonville. Its texture is more similar to your favorite cooked bacon, but the chew comes from the world of jerky. If you like bacon with a hint of maple this is the treat for you.
Of course, with all that hard work tasting and testing, one of the things we like best about the Sweets & Snacks Expo is that it's just plain fun. We get the opportunity to meet with tastemakers around the world, and sometimes we even get to hang out with celebrity guests - if we promise not to peep.
If you want to know about any of the other snacks we taste-tested please let us know.