Sweets & Snacks show gears up for 25th anniversary celebrations

Now celebrating its 25th year, Sweets & Snacks Expo returns to its spiritual home of Chicago this month. Neill Barston speaks to the NCA organising team behind the influential confectionery extravaganza ahead of the 2022 event.

Anticipation surrounding this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo is fast gathering pace, with the event set to open its doors in just a couple of weeks’ time.

This edition will feel particularly special, marking the 25th anniversary of the event, which since its institution in the 1990’s, it has served as a beacon for the industry in America.

Considered as the key annual confectionery trade show for the region, its insights, trends and new product releases have often set the pace for wider global industry developments.

Taken in pure numbers, last year, the US registered $36.9 billion in confectionery sales, with predictions for that to rise to nearly $45 billion within the next few years.

So perhaps there’s little surprise that the industry’s biggest brands and suppliers including Hershey, Mondelez, Ferrero, Ferrara, Mars and Nestle, Barry Callebaut and Cargill, are all set to play their part on the annual candy’ scene’s big stage.

Well over 700 exhibitors will be heading back to McCormick Place between 23-26 May for the key sector trade fair, which last year found itself transferred to Indianapolis amid the pandemic.

Among last year’s elements came a notable return of an industry supplier showcase, which this year will include around 100 businesses across equipment, systems, ingredients and general services.

Industry insights
As the expo’s organisers NCA explain, there has been an especially notable focus on preparing its education programme that is set to place a spotlight on some of the hottest topics in the sector.

From trends in better-for-you snacking, flavours and wider product innovation, through to exploring retail opportunities and how the pandemic has opened up speciality markets, a full spectrum of issues takes the event floor.

There will also be plenty of time to celebrate success within the sector with the event’s awards presentation, highlighting notable innovations for the industry amid turbulent times. A total of over 300 products will be put through their paces by event judges in 11 categories.

Speaking ahead of the event, Carly Schildhaus, the NCA’s senior manager of public affairs believed final preparations for the event’s return to Chicago were shaping up strongly.

She said: “We are so thrilled to return to Chicago for the 25th Sweets & Snacks Expo in 2022 for another year of actionable insights, meaningful connections and cutting-edge innovation. We’ll take some time to celebrate this great quarter century accomplishment and look ahead to the future of the confectionery and snack industries.

“We’re especially excited because we know from our community that people are eager to convene in person – nothing replaces the in person connections and the buying power conveniently available on the show floor,” she revealed, explaining that its educational programming is back and bigger than ever before, with research and insights on full display to help attendees as they do business in the year ahead.

Furthermore, she noted that there had been an encouraging level of interest in its supplier showcase event, which has attracted some of the industry’s most prominent companies.

As the NCA recognised, the development of this aspect of the show represents an important opportunity for the entire chain of the industry to engage with each other.

“Our annual Buzz reception on Wednesday night is planned as an anniversary celebration with champagne and treats to mark the occasion. Plus, we have planned a very special concourse exhibit honouring 25 years of sweets and snacks – you’ll get a chance to see how it all started! In the month leading up to the show, we’re also sharing bits of our sweet and savory history on our social channels, continued Carly.

“We are also excited to have some of the show’s newest exhibitors on Startup Street. This area of the show floor is designed to highlight new candy and snack companies and features companies that have been in business for three years or less – and will help show attendees find the next big thing to delight their customers. And we’ll have two Power Pitch sessions this year because they’ve been so popular in the past – one is focused on new confections brands and the other is focused on new snack brands.”

Supplier showcase
Among the diverse array of businesses participating in the supplier showcase, Cargill believed it offered a strong opportunity for the company to show its latest solutions.

Gretchen Hadden, Marketing Communications Manager, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate – North America, said: “We are always excited to engage with customers at one of the premier industry trade shows. It’s a great place to get re-energised by all the innovation on display. We’re especially thrilled to be part of the Supplier Showcase and are looking forward to connecting with brands, showcasing our ingredients and expertise, and setting the stage for further collaborations.

“The Sweets & Snacks show is known for its electric atmosphere, brimming with energy and enthusiasm, and it’s always a great venue to see the latest industry trends, newest innovations and groundbreaking new products – all in one place and on full display. We can’t wait to see everyone in Chicago.”

Preparations continue

As Confectionery Production recently reported, findings from the National Confectioners Association’s annual State of Treating report revealed US chocolate sales rose 9.2% to $16.7 billion in 2021, as other segments grew even higher, up 14.5% to $9.1 billion, placing it in an especially buoyant position.

The study, which was revealed recently to attendees of the NCA’s annual conference in Miami, demonstrated continued resilience for the sector, with factors including at-home consumption proving decisive in the positive momentum

Reflecting on the pandemic trading period at this year’s State of the Industry event, John Downs, president and CEO of the NCA (below), believed the overall success for the sector was at least in part down to what has been described as ‘newstalgia’ – a thirst for comfortable products that also appear fresh.

The event featured a valuable series of insights sessions that set the scene for Sweets & Snacks, including a keynote presentation from Jason Dorsey, demographer and authority on generation Z consumers. His presentation underlined the fact that there are strong differences between generations in terms of how industry can best engage with them.

Among the key points raised was that for younger audiences, thoughtful and dynamic digital connections through social media channels are vital to gain their attention, as this has been their primary form of media, which has driven a significant boom in online retailing over the past few years, and notably amid the pandemic.

Jason Dorsey, demographics expert, at the State of the Industry Conference

The conference also showcased key chocolate market trends within the US, which will be firmly in evidence for this month’s Sweets & Snacks, including some considerable developments from American branded ranges, with consumers increasingly turning to offer support for their own respective region’s offerings.

Another key session for the State of the Industry event centred on delivering women’s empowerment within the confectionery sector, which featured Greg Guidotti, chief marketing officer of Ferrara and Sylvia Buxton, president and CEO of Perfetti Van Melle USA, who detailed her own rise within the industry, noting it had posed its challenges, yet she asserted that conditions are now considerably improving for women seeking management careers in the sector.

This month’s Sweets & Snacks Expo is set to build on the momentum of these varied sessions as it returns to McCormick Place, Chicago with a host of finished product and supplier businesses.

Among the highlights for the show will be its Startup Street, which features a curated selection of innovative business owners who started their confectionery or snack business within the last three years. As the trade fair will reveal, there has been plenty of innovation during the pandemic.

“Starting a new business is always challenging, but deciding to start one during the last three years is even harder. We are proud to showcase these new confectionery and snack companies as they make their debut at the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo,” added John Downs. “This show continues to push the envelope on trends and new products, and these startups are a perfect example of why this show is so valuable to our attendees and exhibitors. I look forward to having these companies join us for the next 25 years of the Sweets & Snacks Expo.”

Speaking to Confectionery Production, Lyn Pitt, director of DT&G Ltd equipment business (pictured at the recent State of the Industry Conference below, which will be showcasing its chocolate polishing and belt coating systems at Sweets and Snacks, believed the Chicago show this month holds plenty of potential.

She said: “I am really excited about the prospect of being back at Sweets and Snacks. I’ve been there twice now, and it was amazing to see all the big names there, and hundreds of global confectioners with so many innovative products. While it’s in the US, there are many European companies there as well.
“It’s really interesting to see who is there and what’s happening, and the stories behind these companies. It’s a very welcoming industry. While they may all be competitors, there’s a real respect between the exhibitors. I think this year’s event will be a very important one for suppliers,” explained Lyn.

She added that DT&G Ltd first exported its machinery to the US in 1981, and its team is looking forward to highlighting its enhanced thermodrive machine in Chicago (booth 30521).

For its part, Tricor Systems Inc, specialists in chocolate tempering will be exhibiting several of its systems, including its Model 530 and Model 225 machines.

As the business explained, for over 40 years, the company has been helping confectioners achieve high quality chocolate series. Both of its models on display allow the user to know within minutes if their chocolate is properly tempered – providing high gloss, good snap and bloom-free products.

Thomas Allen, the company’s Vice President, welcomed the chance to return to the show, with the firm at Booth 30316. He said: “I am thrilled to be attending this year’s Sweet & Snack expo as a supplier exhibitor this year. It will be great to catch up with old acquaintances face to face and meet new colleagues.” For show details, visit www.sweetsandsnacks.com





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