Supplier showcase makes successful return to Sweets & Snacks Expo

A dynamic range of equipment, systems and ingredients came under the spotlight for this year’s supplier showcase at the 25th anniversary edition of Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, writes Neill Barston.

Businesses from across the sector in the US and further afield came together again for this notable element of the show, which has been successfully revived from its original inclusion from the event in its original format in the late 90s as the All Candy Expo.

More than 100 companies exhibited as part of the showcase, which shone a valuable light on some of the region’s latest machinery, product applications, as well as wider sector services, with those companies engaged with the event reporting a strong level of footfall and interest from visitors.

Confectionery Production spoke to a number of exhibitors at the showcase, which offered some valuable insights into how the industry has shaken off the worst impact of the pandemic, and is continuing to forge ahead with a range of new industry solutions and equipment.

Among those participating at the event was Cargill, with its North American chocolate division, with its sweeteners team also in attendance, discussing the delivery of its latest Eversweet stevia sweetener, and ClearFlo natural flavouring for use within chocolate and a number of additional categories.

Speaking on its latest development, Courtney LeDrew, marketing manager for starches, sweeteners and texturisers (pictured right of photo), believed the initial industry response to the concept had been notably encouraging.

She said: “We have invested heavily in stevia over the past decade and what we are doing, over time, we’re figuring out how to improve its flavour and functionality. As part of this we launched our EverSweet and ClearFlo, stevia sweetener and natural flavour – the benefit is that they help mask some bitterness and helps curb the sweetness linger that you typically have with some legacy stevia ingredients.

“So, we initially developed it for the beverage industry, but what we found was that it also works nicely in chocolate application. We have samples with many of our customers and we are looking forward to what kind of results they get as well,” she explained, noting that it had been produced with particularly strong sustainability credentials, with its lab developed formulation having a 97% reduced environmental footprint compared against traditional Stevia leaf products.

Colombia’s Luker Chocolate were also in attendance for the showcase, with the team noting to Confectionery Production that there had been a strong response to its sustainably-focused chocolate series, with the company now supplying a wide range of manufacturers around the world.

Among machinery and systems businesses reporting a strong response, GEA Food, manufacturing a number of equipment lines for the confectionery field noted there had been a good response from existing and new customers at the event, which the team felt had been well worth engaging with.

Similarly, Tricor Systems, specialising in chocolate tempering systems told Confectionery Production that it had found an encouraging response from visitors across the two days, with the business reporting comparatively buoyant trading, despite wider market supply chain challenges.

Also on the equipment side, Edward Smagarinsky (pictured main image), from Australian headquartered  NID, part of the tna packaging equipment solutions business celebrating its 40th anniversary, welcomed a return to the event.

He said: “It’s been a long two and half years that we have not been able to travel, but I am glad to be back here in the US as I used to come and see customers here quite regularly. I’m happy to be back and it’s the start of a long trail of visits that we will be doing.

“I believe the business has coped quite well with the pandemic, as the tough times that we have had have seen more people buying confectionery as a treat, so in a strange way, the industry often does well in tougher economic times. On the heels of that, the suppliers to the industry do rather well in these times. With NID now being part of tna, this has given us the opportunity to update the design and efficiency of our equipment.”

From the UK, DT&G Ltd was also exhibiting at the show, offering visitors a showcase of its coating systems equipment, with the business enjoying export to the US for more than four decades.

Speaking on making a return to the event, director Lyn Pitt believed that it had been well worth the investment in travelling to the show, and welcomed the revival of the supplier showcase.

She said: “The Sweets & Snacks Expo is a great event, and it’s lovely for us to be reconnecting with people here that we met at the State of the Industry Conference earlier in the year. The market is really positive over here, and people seem to be enjoying the opportunities at the show. We’re here in Chicago to meet a large confectionery customer, so being at the event has been really positive for us.” For extended coverage of the event, see the next edition of Confectionery Production.

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