State of the Industry Conference to highlight key trends and AI technology

The pivotal influence of TikTok social media, fostering inclusive workplaces, and the major technological potential for AI tools within industry will form key themes for this year’s State of the Industry Conference, reports Neill Barston.

Confectionery Production will again be reporting live from the event, which will see around 700 senior representatives from the region and further afield, gather to exchange dialogue and ideas on the biggest trends of 2024. (See last year’s exclusive video review here.)

Among the key highlights for this year’s event at the JW Marriott Miami, Turnberry, Aventura, Florida will include a fresh keynote address from John Downs, president of the National Confectioners Association, pictured below.

John Downs, CEO and President of the National Confectioners Association, takes inspiration from the Apollo moon landings at SOTIC. Pic: NCA

There will also be the much-anticipated latest edition of the State of Treating Report evaluating the latest trends for the US region and beyond, plus a special ‘fireside chat’ with renowned political columnist George Will. This is set to reflect on some core themes impacting the US market, such as the US sugar programme, with manufacturers particularly concerned at ongoing high import prices for the region. The event will also include its traditional awards ceremony, honouring some of the industry’s most worthy contenders.

This will feature confectionery Leadership Awards to Katie Alexander, Dollar Tree, and Susan Grassey, Harris Teeter, for their effective business collaboration, category management best practices, and innovations in merchandising confectionery products.

As Confectionery Production has already reported, there will be a special further accolade for Sylvia Buxton of, Perfetti Van Melle North America, as the 2024 Woman of Influence, and Mary Beth Lane, CA Carlin, and Tony Jacobs, Bazooka Candy Brands, as our Golden and Silver Candy Dish Award winners.

One of the main digital focus sessions will see a presentation from Conor Grennan explore how ChatGPT can further enhance day-to-day business operations within the confectionery industry.

This emerging technology, which has burst on to the scene in the past 18 months, is already reportedly making a notable impact, with initiatives such as bespoke AI chatbots being deployed to engage with consumers and hone product offerings.

Significantly, some of the core uses for the technology have centred on the development of trend analysis, given the power of platforms such as ChatGPT to access a huge volume of data in rapid timeframes. AI is also reportedly being deployed to enhance the speed of manufacturing operations through digitally monitoring production.

This also extends to examination of safety protocols, with algorithms being created for maintaining consistency in business operations, as well as tracking food supply chains and assisting in other core duties such as automation of packaging product ranges. There will be plenty of fresh insights on offer covering many of these areas.

Carly Schildhaus, public affairs director for the National Confectioners Association believed this year’s event would prove another especially notable gathering for the sector’s major players.

She said: “We like to refer to the State of the Industry Conference as the confectionery industry’s family reunion, and for good reason: people from throughout the industry are able to come together for three days of insights, updates and networking. Of course, we’ll also be celebrating the industry – the category remains incredibly resilient and enthusiasm for chocolate and candy only continues to grow – and look forward to shining a spotlight on the people who work hard every day to ensure that consumers can continue to enjoy their favorite treats.”

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