Sweets & Snacks Expo makes a memorable return for its 25th birthday

Back in its long-term home in Chicago, this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo has got off to a roaring start with a host of product innovations, insights and industry networking.

It’s a particularly special occasion being the 25th anniversary of the key sector showcase, and Confectionery Production is glad to be doing its part in covering the show once again after an enforced absence of over two years.

Last year’s show saw the trade fair move to Indianapolis, which by all accounts was a smaller show, but one that put an important marker down for signalling a return to the live event arena, that this year’s edition is surely building upon.

Walking the well proportioned halls of the McCormick Place for the first day of the full show, there has been a notable buzz about the venue, undoubtedly fuelled by celebrations surrounding its significant milestone.

The aisles were packed with thousands of eager visitors keen to experience everything the show had to offer, from intriguing artisan offerings, through to developments from major global enterprises including Ferrero, Mars, Mondelez, Ferrara, Hershey (pictured main image), and Barry Callebaut – with the latter standing out for unleashing its latest Plant Craft dairy free organic chocolate as a key breakthrough for the region.

There were some smart innovations from independent businesses including edible ink printers targeting artisan confectioners, through to a wide array of innovative snack flavours and textures from businesses as far and wide as Turkey, Brazil and a handful of British firms represented by the UK’s Food and Drink Exporters Association, which is seeking to extend the nation’s culinary interests in the US.

Significantly, the event opened yesterday with the supplier showcase element of the show, which saw around 100 sector businesses from chocolate and ingredients and applications innovations from the likes of Cargill, Beneo and Capol, through to equipment from tna, IMA and the UK’s own DT&G Ltd, which all reported a strong pipeline of visitors to their respective stands.

So it seems there genuinely is a thirst for returning to the live event arena after two years of pandemic conditions that put events featuring thousands of visitors entirely on the backburner – but all that is seemingly now changing.

As well as delivering in terms of quality insights covering everything from online shopping trends, gen z and millennial preferences, through to the latest developments in snacking, the event is clearing meeting with industry’s expectations.

Another notable feature is the intriguing look back on the history of the show over more than two decades, with a dedicated display charting its history, exploring its early days at Navy Pier in Chicago – which formerly included a special visitors boat trips for product buyers under its earliest guise as the ‘All Candy Expo in its first formative years in the late 1990s.

From seeing the wealth of visual material from across the past 25 years on display, it’s clear that the event has been readily embraced over the past quarter of a century, and surely has plenty more life in it as the showcase is set to head out on the road from 2024, alternating between Indianapolis and Las Vegas.

As for this year’s show, beyond all the hard work that goes into staging such events, there’s also some welcome fun touches including the return of some mascots and characters from the industry including a giant Haribo Goldbear marching around the site (with the brand marking its centenary), Tony the Tiger (from the Kellogg’s stand), for good measure, reaffirming that the event has lost none of the spectacle and sense of fun that is exceptionally welcome in these challenging times.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production magazine



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