2014 marks the largest event in the show’s history.
Sponsored by the National Confectioners Association (NCA) , the 2014 Sweets & Snacks Expo hosted a sold out show at Chicago’s McCormick Place to an audience of more than 16,000 qualified industry professionals from May 20 – 22.
“For the fifth year in a row, the Expo saw exceptional growth in all areas,” commented NCA Executive Vice President Alison Bodor. “The 2014 show attracted the largest number of exhibitors we’ve ever had, including a record-breaking 167 first-time exhibitors. Our show sold out in January with a wait list of nearly 90 companies—the earliest sell-out ever. In a challenging economy this demonstrates our event provides vital business opportunities, insights, innovations and resources that the industry views as a priority and reason to attend.”
For the first time the Expo hosted more than 650 exhibitors of candy, snack and gourmet products from 23 countries with global industry participation from more than 90 countries. The sold-out Gourmet and Natural Marketplace has doubled in size in the last four years.
“The record-setting show floor square footage—165,500 net square feet—and number of exhibitors grew 5% over last year,” commented Quinn. “Just when we thought we couldn’t get bigger, we did. We had 167 first-time exhibitors—showing how entrepreneurial our category is.”
In addition, nearly 6,000 pre-qualified 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.
“Seen as a proven destination by more than 96% of past retailers surveyed, attendees recognize the Expo is a solid business value to not only stay on top of innovations and trends, but also to solidify existing partnerships while making new connections. NCA and the entire Expo team continue to exceed expectations creating a “WOW” experience that has helped us grow for the last five years,” Quinn concluded.
This year more than 280 products were submitted for NCA’s Most Innovative New Product Awards, which recognize the hottest new confectionery and snack products on the market. Thought leaders including retail customers, food industry icons, trend experts, a retail dietician and celebrity chefs collaborated and taste-tested the entries to determine the top five items across nine category segments; then retailers determined the most popular item in each segment as well as an overall Best in Show product by voting on the first day of the show.
“The number of products submitted for this awards program were up almost 25 percent from the year prior, demonstrating the nimble innovation that happens in the candy and snack category,” said Tim Quinn, Expo chairman and vice president of trade relations at Mars Chocolate North America. “New candy and snack items in 2013 alone were the leading source of growth for both categories which together delivered over 20% of center store growth; our manufacturers know how important it is to meet the demands of the consumer through innovative and diverse products.”
Adding to the Expo’s value to both attendees and exhibitors, the New Product Showcase featured more than 315 showcases full of new products.
Among many highlights of the morning keynote sessions was NBC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman who praised the special place that candy holds in a balanced and healthy lifestyle, saying that it is a part of a global continuum that connects us all.
“If you try to deprive people of something, they’ll find a way to get it anyway and then gorge themselves on it. It’s rooted in our brains,” said Snyderman.
Industry trends experts Larry Levin, executive vice president of industry insights for IRI Worldwide, and Larry Wilson, vice president of customer relations for the National Confectioners Association, examined key drivers between category and channel growth and told attendees how to maximize these drivers in-store. Today’s savvy consumers shop multiple channels, and Wilson cautioned retailers: “You need to understand their trip mission, and because they also shop online, you need to ensure you inspire them with a positive shopping experience and consider beginning with digital even before they shop.”
Education continued beyond the keynote sessions in 20-minute learning labs in the Shopper Solutions Theater, back on the show floor after a wildly popular debut in 2013. Experts discussed how to maximize merchandising through digital strategy, shopper loyalty and motivation, and category and business trends.
Highlights from the 2014 Sweets & Snacks Expo included:
• NCA’s Young Professionals Network hosted more than 250 young professionals at a cocktail reception and dinner at Gene and Georgetti on Monday before the show began, providing the emerging leaders of the category with the ability to connect with their peers as well as industry mentors.
• Enhancing peer-to-peer interactions, the second annual Industry Buzz Networking Reception on Wednesday evening drew thousands to the Grand Concourse. Industry professionals had the chance to network and discuss the day’s business while enjoying libations and light hors d’oeuvres.
• For the fourth year in a row, Innovation Alley featured 16 candy- and snack-startup companies that left the show with solid contacts that will jump start their foray into the industry and onto retailer’s shelves.
• Chatter about the Expo’s offerings went viral in a 360 degree social media outreach program that garnered thousands of tweets, postings and picture uploads. The Expo’s Facebook likes grew 24% and Twitter followers increased 13%, while thousands downloaded the official Expo App to schedule their trip to Chicago, connect with other attendees, download exhibitor show materials and navigate the show floor. Exhibitors once again embraced the Virtual Media Center, posting and socializing nearly 200 news releases, up 50% from 2013.
• After the show closed two tractor trailers full of leftover candy and snack products donated by exhibitors were taken to Operation Interdependence which provides a means for community members to support troops serving on the front lines, military families and veterans.
“We are fast becoming a snacking culture with 85% of U.S. adults snacking. Candy and snack’s value proposition has not slowed down for consumers as 51% of adults snack three or more times a day, up from 21% in 2010,” said Bodor. “The 2015 Expo is poised to be the industry one-stop resource for continued growth. Candy and snack sales are more than $83 billion in the U.S. and $416 billion worldwide with growth rates in these categories outpacing overall store sales. The Sweets & Snacks Expo has evolved into the stand-alone must-see destination the industry turns to every year!”