Sweets & Snacks Expo Continues to Grow

Sees fourth straight year of growth in attendance, exhibitors, square footage, more

CHICAGO -- The National Confectioners Association (NCA) hosted a sold-out 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo, with more than 15,000 qualified industry professionals attending the event held May 21 to 23 in Chicago, resulting in a 10% increase in registrations.

"For the fourth year in a row, the expo demonstrated significant growth in all areas. Our 10% increase in overall expo registration is an accomplishment we relish," said NCA president Larry Graham. "In a challenging economy, it is apparent by the continued growth that our event provides vital tools, insights, innovations and resources that the industry values."

  • Total Registration (2012/2013): 14,010/15,389 (10% increase).
  • Total Square Feet Sold: 144,000/157,100 (9%).
  • New Exhibitors: 140/164 (17%).

This year, 12% of expo visitors traveled from outside of the United States. The show experienced double-digit international participation with more than 90 countries attending. "NCA recognizes the power of U.S. brands around the world and we feel the 2013 expo successfully positioned itself as a destination for world markets to come together," said Graham. "We plan to continue expanding our global efforts and outreach for future shows by partnering with firms including Planet Retail and Euromonitor."

In addition, more than 6,000 candy and snack trade customers registered to attend, representing key distribution channels like grocery, convenience and mass, as well as niche and specialty outlets. The expo is the only venue that represents all of the major U.S. distribution channels of candy and snack products in one location, NCA said.

The day before the expo, a panel of experts made up of retail customers, food industry icons and trend experts, met to narrow down a field of more than 200 new product entries for the Most Innovative New Product Awards. The panel analyzed taste, packaging, innovation, as well as go-to-market feasibility and then selected up to five of the top items across eight categories.

Then more than 2,000 retailers cast ballots during the first day of the show. The winning products were announced and awards presented during the keynote sessions the following day.

"New item submissions for the awards were up 17% from the year prior despite a flat year of new product releases," said Tim Quinn, vice president trade development of Mars Chocolate North America and chairman of the event. "This demonstrates how manufacturers see the Sweets & Snacks Expo as a vital vehicle in promoting and sharing product innovation within the candy and snack industry."

Highlights from 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo included:

  • Keynote sessions featured Duke University's Coach K on the value of leadership and teamwork, as well as columnist George Will's assessment of how politics affects the business. Leon Nicholas of Kantar Retail discussed the future of the confectionery and snack industry while Dina Howell, worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X, provided tips on how to connect with shoppers through proven retail strategies.
  • The sold-out Gourmet Marketplace nearly doubled in size over the past three years, anchored by an enhanced "Taste of Gourmet" area showcasing artisans conducting upscale pairings and demonstrations throughout the show.
  • For the third year in a row, Innovation Alley featured a handful of candy- and snack-related startup companies.
  • A park-like concourse adorned with trees and music featured market shops including a fashion kiosk with custom-made dresses from iconic candy wrappers and several candy- and snack-themed jewelry and accessory stores.
  • A 360 degree social media outreach program garnered thousands of tweets, postings and picture uploads. The event's Facebook likes grew by 38% while thousands downloaded the official Expo App to connect with other attendees, download exhibitor show materials and navigate the show floor. Exhibitors embraced the expo's new virtual media center, posting and socialize more than 100 news releases, double the amount posted in 2012.

The 2014 Sweets & Snacks Expo will be held May 20 to 22 at Chicago's McCormick Place.