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The latest sweet and savory snack foods being released this year seem to all focus on "easy" -- whether that means easy to eat, easy to carry or easy to eat a little healthier.
They could all be found on display, ready for the tasting, at this week's Sweets & Snacks Expo, held by the National Confectioners Association, at Chicago's McCormick Place.
The major candy makers were sampling their new bite-size versions of marquis favorites. Mars Chocolate North America has Milky Way and Snickers Bites, with a Twix version expected soon. Mars is also launching an M&M's Chocolate Bar with bits of the mini candies within the embossed bar. In addition, Mars was showing off its new front-end merchandising concepts for grocery and c-store, guided by a new sales strategy to drive confectionary sales storewide.
Meanwhile, Hershey's big release was its Kit Kat Minis, along with Hershey's Spreads, a spreadable chocolate in regular, almond and hazelnut versions.
The folks at Just Born generated a buzz with the "reunion" of Mike & Ike, the celebrated chewy candy team who "broke up" a year ago and were reunited with the assistance of hip-hop star Nelly. Just Born is also expanding its popular Peeps brand of marshmallow confections beyond its traditional Easter selling period.
There were also plenty of companies bent on getting consumers to eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and other healthy things. Buddy Fruits was among those offering dried apple chips, while Flamous Brands offered a healthier, tasty falafel-based snack chip.
Meat snacks, traditional salty snacks and gourmet candies were among other products rounding out a show that's always an adventure for the eye and the palate.
Jim Dudlicek is editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer.