Earlier this month, Candy Industry Magazine hosted its 17th annual European Suppliers Roundtable in London. This one-day confab brings together executives representing the world’s leading ingredient and equipment confectionery suppliers for a day of discussions on the current state of sweet affairs.

As is our practice, right before lunch we bring in a speaker to provide attendees with either a manufacturer’s point of view or a leading research organization to showcase new insights. Well, this year we were fortunate to have Lamine Lahouasnia, head of packaged foods at Euromonitor International speak to the executives. His topic, appropriately, focused on key trends and drivers in global sweet snacks consumption.

When I first received word about Lahouasnia’s proposed topic, I thought to myself, how timely. As I and just about anyone tracking food can attest, these days it’s all about snacking. The recent Sweets & Snacks Expo, which was once All Candy Expo, affirms the emergence of snacking as all-encompassing umbrella of opportunity.

But sweet snacking, that seems a bit limited you might say. Well, only if you want to limit yourself. In the presentation, sweet snacks, as defined by Euromonitor, encompasses not only traditional confectionery products, but cakes, sweet biscuits, pastries and ice cream.

Sweet snacks represent more than 20 percent of all packaged foods we eat, with confectionery comprising 41 percent; cakes, 17 percent; ice cream, 16 percent; sweet biscuits 14 percent; and pastries 13 percent. Moreover, it’s the second largest growth category (dairy’s first) compared to other packaged food items in absolute growth.

And keep in mind this doesn’t include the following savory snacks: snack bars, nuts, fruit snacks and savory snacks. Of course, many of those these days are sweetened as well.

So what’s driving this sweet snacking tsunami? According to Euromonitor, it’s part lifestyle, part nutrition and part indulgence. People opt for a sweet snack as a break, to be social and sometime, simply out of habit. In doing so they satiate a hunger craving, become refreshed and/or look to enhance their performance. It’s also a means to indulge oneself, a way to celebrate and in the end, to just break the boredom (from one of those tedious conference calls or webinars).

And this will continue as the world becomes more urbanized, more single and more time-pressed. Consider a chart that was shown to our roundtable attendees. It identified the top 15 fastest growing categories for the 2014-2019 period, the bulk of which were snacks.

OK, so baby foods — guess that biological clock is ticking for Generation Z’ers as well as millennials — and meal replacements ranked one and two. After that, snacks dominated: nuts (3), fruit snacks (4); snack bars (5); other sweet and savory snacks (6); tablets (7); extruded snacks (8); countlines (13) chips/crisps (14) and savory biscuits and crackers (15)

And which consumer group is leading the charge? Our favorite narcissists and selfie-takers: millennials.

Again, all of this translates into good news for confectionery companies, particularly — at least from my perspective — when we examine the creative side of fusing those sweet snack segments together. Consider Ghirardelli’s “brownie” chocolate bars, Mars’ GoodnessKnows snack squares, and Hershey’s Brookside Crunchy Clusters and snack bars to name a few that were just recently launched.

And it doesn’t need to be new to take advantage of this opportunity. Looking for a sweet snack? Enstrom’s, for example, had one that packed a seasonal punch…it’s classic toffee. By rebranding, the company looks to make it an everyday indulgence and pick-me-up. Sounds doable to me.

So, sweet snacking everyone.