Final countdown for international Sweets and Snacks Expo

With the international confectionery sector descending on Chicago for 2019’s Sweets and Snacks Expo, final preparations are being put into place. Neill Barston speaks to Chris Gindlesperger and Carly Schildhaus of the National Confectioners’ Association about prospects for this year’s show

Retaining its position as the world’s largest confectionery market, has meant that the industry’s eyes are very definitely trained on Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago.

As the key hub for determining annual trends in a sector that’s worth around $35 billion in America alone, it’s a show that has more than proved its worth. Plans are fast taking shape for this year’s event, which brings together an expected 18,000 international professionals from all areas of the industry.
The event will offer the chance to see some of the game changing products making their way to market this year, with on average, more than 2,000 new products are launched across four acres of show floor.

As organisers explained to Confectionery Production, a total of more than 800 exhibitors are expected for the event, and within its expansive show floor, visitors, including retailers, will find concepts and innovations that are expected to hold considerable potential.

“Everything is going great with our preparations and it’s hard to believe that it’s come round again for another year, and we’ve sold out the exhibition space, and with people expected from over 90 countries, we’re really excited for this year’s expo.

“One of the best things about it is the interaction that happens between buyers, retailers and manufacturers attending the event,” explains Carly Schildhaus, of the National Coonfectioners’ Association, which is behind the trade fair.

Having started out at the city’s famed Navy Pier, it has gradually gravitated to its present site, McCormick Place. The venue is well used to hosting international-level events, with around 3 million visitors passing through its doors each year, offering a total of 2.6 million sq ft of exhibition halls, meeting rooms and separate theatres.

As Schildhaus explains, there has been a consistently high proportion of overseas visitors to the event, with many businesses set to make a return from last year’s show, which she said had proved particularly memorable.

Her colleague Chris Gindlesperger explains that with Sweets and Snacks Expo considered as America’s largest confectionery event, it has laid the groundwork for a number of key trends and provided a valuable platform for businesses of all sizes.
Gindlesperger says: “It’s been a long time since the event was held at Navy Pier, but it’s grown a lot at McCormick Place and is now staged on a site the size of four American Football pitches, and has expanded to a second hall.

“There are a number of exhibitors here that have seen their businesses grow as a result of being at the Expo – one that we often note is Tyler Merrick, who founded Project7 gum, who has expanded his company into producing a wider range including gummies.”

Among the main issues under the microscope during the industry sessions at the event will be how companies are responding to the drive for reduced sugar and revised portion sizes, as consumers become more health conscious.

As global research has shown, most people in the U.S. enjoy chocolate and candy two to three times per week, which averages out at about 40 calories and one teaspoon of added sugar per day.

“Within the US, we have not seen a lot of reformulation of products happening, but there is a lot of innovation at Sweets and Snacks in terms of packaging and examining smaller portions of confectionery.

“This links to the “Always a Treat campaign’ concerning snacking habits and looking at products that have less than 200 calories, and helping consumers making choices about what they are eating. Confectionery is of course an indulgence, so it looks at how people can enjoy treats at points in the year including Valentines Day and Halloween,” adds Gindlesperger.

Another key element of the show will be the diverse range of new products on show, offering attendees an advantage over other retailers, wholesalers and distributors to see, touch and taste new products before they are added to store shelves.

As the event’s organisers note, new products drive consumer sales, with an estimated 6 percent of confectionery sales and 4.8 percent of sales in the snacking category being driven by new products. The 2019 New Product Showcase is set to introduce more than 300 innovations in products, packaging and merchandising.

Among the exhibitors, more than 100 are newly established companies and entrepreneurs eager to make a splash with innovative offerings. Innovation Avenue is where tomorrow’s next big trend is born – like Hippeas, Sheila G’s and Project 7, all of whom launched at the Sweets & Snacks Expo and are now multi-million-dollar success stories.

International Influence

As the NCA adds, the international emphasis of the show has typically led to the show floor, bringing authentic products and region-specific flavors to the market. International influence greatly contributes to the confectionery and snacking industry, bringing global innovation to the marketplace.
Research and insights are the catalyst to turn plans into purpose and goals into action.

At the Sweets & Snacks Expo, more than 25 data-driven, expert-led education sessions will offer category insights and macro trends as well as micro topics affecting the entire confectionery and snacking industry.  Gaining deeper category, consumer and shopper insights is, says the NCA, a game changer for any retail attendee.
So the 2019 Sweets & Snacks Expo is anticipated to bring the best of the confectionery and snacking industry together between 21-23 May. Visit www.sweetsandsnacks.com for more information.

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