Exclusive: Engines fully revved for Indianapolis edition of Sweets & Snacks Expo

Expectations are high for this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo as it enters the starting grid for its fresh location in Indianapolis, Indiana, US. Editor Neill Barston speaks to the NCA’s Carly Schildhaus on prospects for the 2024 show

As the organising team behind Sweets & Snacks has enthused, “Engines are fully revved, and we’re ready for Indy,” referencing the event’s new home in the city famous for its high-octane motorsports. (See the exclusive video version of our event preview here).

The bold decision to venture out from Chicago, considered the US capital of candy, was made for several key reasons, including a desire to break out from its comfort zone and engage with an even broader audience. It is set to alternate with Las Vegas as it continues its evolution at an impressive rate, since its inception as the All Candy Expo way back in the late 1990’s.

Certainly, from speaking to the National Confectioners Association behind the event, there’s an infectious enthusiasm for the show which burns bright, despite the shadow of market challenges that has tested the sector.

Last year, attendance for the show felt like it had recovered to a pre Covid-19 pandemic level, with a real buzz around its halls, with figures around the 16,000 mark across its four days, including the highly-rated supplier showcase event.


Notably, as reported earlier, the US confectionery sector managed to post an upturn of sales figures, growing $6 billion year-on-year to $48bn in 2023, and while this may have been driven largely by inflation, there’s still been a sense of determination and resilience within the industry.

This year’s show will be no exception, as it returns to Indianapolis, between 13-16 May, having ventured there during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, when Chicago had decreed that trade

events were not possible in the city.
It seems the experiment planted a seed for the future development of the show, with this year’s event packed full of over 800 exhibitors from across the US and North America, as well as participants from the UK, Europe and as far afield as China.

This year’s confirmed companies spans everything from small independents to be found on its ‘start-up street,’ through to major corporations represented in the form of Hershey, Mars, Mondelez, Ferrero and Barry Callebaut.

In addition, for two afternoons, on the 13-14, the event’s supplier showcase, which has been re-introduced in the past few years, has this year attracted a diverse community of 170 businesses serving the sector. This table-top exhibition is set to feature major players spanning the complete range of the segment, from equipment firms represented including equipment firms such as Heat & Control, IMA North America, DT&G Ltd, LoeschPack, Sollich, TNA, and WDS, through ingredients firms such as Capol, Olam and Ingredion and Kraft Heinz, and Bell Flavors and Fragrances for an eclectic melting pot of enterprise.

Excitement building
Speaking to Confectionery Production, Carly Schildhaus, director of public affairs for the NCA revealed that preparations for the big switch to Indy were on track for delivering the sector’s sense of anticipation.

She said: “We are so excited for Sweets & Snacks 2024, it is promising to be big and bold, and we have more than 800 exhibitors and over 16,000 people, and of course excited to be in our new location of Indianapolis, Indiana.

“We were so fortunate to be able to go there previously in 2021, it was different and a different time, but we’re so thrilled to be going back there. This was a decision made by the attendees, based on lot of factors. Not least of these was what a warm welcome we had there before, but the city and the location is just the perfect spot for us to be able to expand the show and to look ahead to the future,” she explained of its new site, which will allow for an enhanced area of floor space for the event.

Among its other core features will be the new product showcase, with more than 300 innovative items on display this year, which are linked to the expo’s annual awards ceremony on Monday 13 May, which is set to honour some of the most creative businesses operating within the region.

This year’s major education programme is still being finalised, yet this has traditionally attracted presentations from major brands, as well as insights from seasoned industry research groups.
“Education is one of the key aspects of the Expo, so that people coming to the show can participate in more than 40 education sessions, which range in topic area from insights from thought leaders across confectionery and snacks spaces. These will be running throughout the day, and a really dynamic part of the event that has proved a key highlight,” explained Carly, who added that the NCA anticipated that there would once again be a strong sense of there being international representation from visitors from around the world, eager to gain the inside track on industry developments.

“It’s a marketplace of ideas. The really key piece of this, is just how enthusiastic people continue to be about the show. We just released the State of Treating 2024 report and saw that the market in the US hit $48billion in sales, and we’re anticipating that reaching $61 billion by 2028. More than 98% in the US purchased chocolate, candy, gum and mints, so enthusiasm for the category is super strong, even at a time when there are some really well reported much about the people who are there – the products are so exciting innovative, and I love going round sampling new things and work out what my favourite treat is, but really getting to interact with people that I haven’t seen for a while or meet brand new people in the industry is great, it’s the confectionery industry is such a vibrant space, getting to spend time with those who are just as passionate if not more so than I am, is a wonderful thing.”

President strikes upbeat tone
Moreover, as part of the recent State of the Industry event in Miami, Confectionery Production magazine also spoke to the NCA’s president and CEO, John Downs, who offered plenty of optimism for this year’s major industry showcase as it slides into its new home in Indianapolis.

As he noted, the timing was right for taking the show out on the road from its traditional home in Chicago, with the event already having had a sample of Indianapolis hospitality when it relocated there amid the pandemic to a positive response.

John Downs at SOTIC 2024. Pic: Neill Barston

He said: “So the theme this year is big and bold – in a new city and new venue. It’s a really wonderful fit for us there. It’s convenient and very accessible. We’re going to have record attendance, exhibitors and sponsorships, and we’re going to have an amazing experience in Indianapolis. We are all so excited for it, and so is the industry.”

Among the many businesses appearing at this year’s show, Cargill will be showcasing a number of solutions during the event. Jana Mauck, marketing manager, snacks & cereals, Cargill (stand 10729, main hall), commented: ” We are always thrilled to connect 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 and key in on the latest trends driving the dynamic candy and snack space. We’re looking forward to exhibiting and engaging with brands, showcasing our comprehensive ingredient solutions and deep category expertise, and setting the stage for further collaborations.”At our booth, we’ll be offering a delicious snack bar that highlights how brands can bring together indulgence and better-for-you trends with a sweet-and-salty concept. Decadent chocolate bits and pink Himalayan salt star in this snack sensation, but it also delivers on nutrition with 8 grams of plant-based protein and just fives grams of added sugar. It’s one example of how we can help brands translate marketplace trends into tempting candy and snack options.

Supplier showcase expansion

Another notable element of the Sweets & Snacks Expo is its supplier showcase event, which has continued to grow since it was re-introduced to the expo several years ago, and has gone from strength to strength, with more than 100 exhibitors participating over two afternoons (13-14 May).

Kyle Krause (below), regional product Manager, Beneo ingredients (Supplier showcase 3327), believed that there would be plenty on offer for visitors this time around as it moves to Indy, providing a new chapter for the event.

He said: ” With consumers becoming more knowledgeable about ingredients that provide health benefits, being more focused on reading labels, and having increased demands for healthy choices, Beneo expects the market for sweets and snacks, as well as other healthy food and beverage products, will continue to perform strongly. Market demand will also encourage ingredient providers and manufacturers to further innovate. The Beneo-Technology Centre works hand-in- hand with manufacturers to develop new and exciting alternatives to meet customer demands.

“For example, its natural, non-GMO prebiotic chicory root fibres have provided a 30 per cent reduction in fat content in chocolate fillings and a 30 per cent sugar reduction in a chocolate chip cookie. Its portfolio of rice ingredients, including starches, flours and highly digestive protein can also be applied to a wide range of indulgent products that improve body, mouthfeel. It has also developed a new beta-glucan and faba protein ingredients.”

Lyn Pitt, DT&G Ltd equipment (supplier showcase 3424) also welcomed the prospect of featuring in the new setting, where her company will be displaying its confectionery coating systems, having reported growing interest in her equipment lines within the region.

She said: “Sweets and Snacks in Indianapolis will be a first for me. NCA is a very special community, the Show in Chicago has always been a fantastic experience, and I am looking forward to the new venue, seeing so many of our old friends and meeting many more visitors. We will be there promoting Finn Coaters and Polishers, developed to be easy clean with allergen control and bacteria transfer controlled, with reduced chocolate loss and all the benefits of data reporting and automated production.

“Opening the Suppliers Hall the day before the show officially starts is a great opportunity for connecting and catching up on the new show layout before the doors are opened and all the excitement for visitors and exhibitors start.”

Meanwhile, Christoph Krombholz, of Loeschpack, (Supplier showcase, 3418) was similarly enthused by prospects for this year’s event in Indianapolis, which marks a debut for the German-headquartered packaging machinery business at the event.

He noted: “We are full of anticipation and excitement as we participate for the first time in the renowned Sweets and Snacks Expo, taking place in Indianapolis in 2024. This event provides us with the perfect platform to showcase our innovations, machinery, and services and to establish close connections with our international customers and contacts. We are particularly looking forward to gaining a deeper insight into the North American confectionery market, which is currently experiencing a significant upsurge.

“Our participation allows us to present our latest products and concepts to a broad audience, within the largest packaging market in the world. We are confident that our comprehensive packaging solutions will generate significant interest in this context. Additionally, we see the trade show as an opportunity to deepen existing customer relationships and to gain new business partners.”


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