The 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo, hosted by the National Confectioners Association, set an all-time attendance record for the second consecutive year as more than 18,000 industry professionals from nearly 90 countries were welcomed to McCormick Place to experience the latest trends and innovations in the candy and snack categories. Exhibitors grew nearly 6 percent, representing more than 800 candy and snack companies showcasing more than four acres of product innovation over two halls.
“There was an amazing energy on the exhibit floor this year as the Sweets & Snacks Expo continues to be the premier, must-attend event in the confectionery and snack business,” said John Downs, president and CEO of NCA. “Expo was the perfect venue to introduce the chocolate and candy industry’s recent leadership commitment to our retail and wholesale customers. As we work to provide Americans with transparency, portion guidance and consumer education as they enjoy their favorite treats, attendees got to experience first-hand what this groundbreaking initiative means for our industry.”
The chocolate and candy industry’s leadership commitment was a focal point of the Expo as more than 80 percent of the candy category’s buying power was in attendance. An educational session on the first day provided attendees with insights on what they can expect from the participating companies in the next five years as it relates to providing consumers with information, support and education. All of the participating companies, which include Mars Chocolate, Wrigley, Nestle, Ferrero, Lindt, Ghirardelli, Russell Stover and Ferrara Candy Co., had displays in their booths marking their involvement with the commitment.
Attendees were able to visit the 217 new exhibitors, view the 45 hottest retailer-approved new product award nominees and learn from any of the targeted knowledge-building sessions.
“Year after year, the Sweets & Snacks Expo proves to be the leading business event for the candy and snack categories, and 2017 was no different,” said Barry Rosenbaum, Expo chairman and president of Nassau Candy Distributors Inc. “We are proud to provide a focused environment where attendees can meet with current and future partners and learn about the latest trends affecting the industry.”
Some of the expo’s highlights include:
Higher Impact Show Floor
Skyline Hall, now in its second year, was home to more than 150 exhibitors and the show’s educational epicenter in Discovery Theater.
The Specialty Market, located on the show floor, experienced tremendous attendee focus and was at its all-time largest featuring more than 140 exhibitors.
Celebrating what’s new
“Eye-Opener” morning sessions debuted to provide attendees with knowledge-building experiences all before the show floor opened. Topics ranged from candy, snack and specialty trends to the latest in technology and innovative retail marketing.
Attendees also were able to further explore the latest technology and merchandising solutions driving shopper engagement at the new Destination Retail area featuring IBM, Dart Displays, Menasha, Pointy, Shelfbucks, One-Click Retail and Lighting for Impact.
Three entrepreneurial startup companies, Amore di Mona, Brooklyn Cookie Co. and Pajama Sweets had the opportunity to make their “Power Pitch” to gain insights and business tips from a panel featuring some of America’s leading retailers.
Innovation in products and marketing solutions
Innovation Avenue welcomed its highest number of start-up companies, with 20 businesses exhibiting their new brands.
Hershey’s Reese’s Crunchers received the Best-In-Show new product award during the Most Innovative New Product Awards champagne celebration, which took place live on the show floor.
Buddah Brands’ Hungry Buddah Probiotic Coconut Chips in Cheeky Chocolate brought home the inaugural Small Business Innovator New Product Award, recognizing a start-up with net sales under $500,000.
Building communities with new and returning attendees
The Buzz Networking Reception held on the grand concourse drew thousands, NCA says. New to the Buzz Reception was the introduction of micro-meetup areas, where specialty buyers, snack buyers and first-time attendees could interact with each other in a more intimate setting.
There’s an app for that
Nearly 60 percent of attendees downloaded the Expo app in order to gain real-time access and navigate through the 800-plus exhibitors on the show floor, download session schedules and experience the 45 Most Innovative New Product Award nominees.
The #SSEBuzz Selfie Contest made its debut as more than 100 entries were received during the hour-long Buzz Reception. Attendees that posted their photos using the hashtag were entered to win numerous prizes.
Industry groups prepare for the future
NCA’s Young Professionals Network (YPN) reception on May 24 at Barry Callebaut’s U.S. headquarters welcomed nearly 200 people, providing the industry’s emerging leaders with a venue to connect with their peers and industry mentors.
In addition, NCA’s Women’s Leadership Group held its annual breakfast on May 24. More than 150 attended the breakfast, which featured Minute Mentoring where industry mentors provided rapid-fire advice sessions.
After the show closed, leftover candy and snack products donated by exhibitors were taken to Give Kids The World, a non-profit for children with life-threatening illnesses.
The Expo is more than 90 percent sold out for 2018. Next year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo will take place May 22-24, 2018 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.
See a gallery of photos Shelby staff took at the Expo here.