Smaller players are driving significant growth, says I.R.I.

CHICAGO — In a challenging time for the consumer packaged goods industry, candy and snacks are alive and well. The categories last year posted 1.9% and 2.7% growth in U.S. sales, respectively, according to Information Resources, Inc. (I.R.I.).

“We know growth is difficult in the C.P.G. world,” said Larry Levin, executive vice-president of insights and thought leadership at I.R.I., during a presentation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 19-21 in Chicago. “The C.P.G. industry is growing at about 2.5% year-on-year. The center of the store, where we architect our opportunities, is growing at an even slower rate.”

Innovation is a critical factor in driving continued growth in the future, he said.

“In the $64 billion business that is sweets and snacks, $3 billion was driven by innovation,” Mr. Levin said. “As you walk the floor, look at the innovation that’s happening with our big partners, but also look at what’s happening from the small companies because consumers don’t buy products because they are manufactured by a large company or a small company.”

Consumers are driven to buy products that provide value, he added.

“Value for the money doesn’t mean cheap; value for the money means ‘make my life better,’” Mr. Levin said. “The innovations (featured at the show) are really playing into great value.”

Contributing a significant amount of growth in the candy and snack categories last year were smaller, more nimble manufacturers, “who are getting their innovations to the marketplace in a more agile style,” Mr. Levin said.

Of the 630 companies exhibiting at Sweets & Snacks this year, more than 115 were newcomers to the annual show. A designated section dubbed Innovation Alley highlights startup brands with uniquely creative products. The National Confectioners Association, which hosts the expo, identified eight up and coming entrepreneurs with cutting-edge confections and snacks.