More than 480 manufacturers exhibited at the National Confectioners Association’s (NCA) 2010 Sweets & Snacks expo in Chicago May 25-27, allowing attendees and industry suppliers to explore the latest trends and outlooks in candy and confectionery. At the event, NCA laid out several key trends that may give flexible packaging converters serving this market something to chew on.

• Chocolate-Covered Everything-America's love for chocolate cannot be stopped as manufacturers look for more and more delicious treats to cover with chocolate. Look for chocolate-covered products that include crunchy, salted, cookie dough, cookie and marshmallow centers.

• Twisted Traditions-New twists on classic candies are beloved by consumers who find comfort in familiar brands but want to try new and innovative ways to enjoy their favorite snacks. Look for classic candies to feature bite-sized offerings, coffee and caramel flavors, and intense and unique flavors.

• Up in the Air-Snacking practically takes flight as these awesome aerated confections or lighter than air treats hit the shelves. Think tantalizing truffle sitting on a subtle airy crisp layer of meringue enrobed in velvety chocolate or aerated, fluffy gummy in flavors like watermelon and pineapple.

• REAL Good-Today's consumer focus on natural and wholesome ingredients has not gone unnoticed by the confectionery and snack industry. Look for tasty goodies are all-natural, low sodium, GMO-free, no trans fats, no preservatives, dairy free, gluten free, low calorie and low sugar. Also look for treats made with real fruit juice and all natural colors and flavors such as blueberry, raspberry, goji berry and cloudberry.

• The Galloping Gourmet-Snacks and confections are little pleasures to be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle. Think flavor combinations of sweet and salty, chocolate blends and sugar-coated concoctions.

• Fresh-N-Fruity-Bursting on the scene with fresh and powerful flavors are candies and gums in show-stopping varieties. Think new and intense flavors with unique textures.

• Dark and Dreamy-Dark chocolate has been increasing in popularity for years and new product introductions have played a big part in the expansion of the category.