US consumers have a growing appetite for new tastes such as ethnic flavors and single origin chocolate, creating an opportunity for gourmet confectioners, according to the Sweets and Snacks Expo organizers.
The National Confectioners Association (NCA) will host the Sweets & Snacks Expo at Chicago’s McCormick Place on May 20-22. It told ConfectioneryNews that it saw a mounting interest in the show’s Gourmet Marketplace, an area dedicated to premium confectionery.
The premium boom
Larry Wilson, vice president of customer relations at the NCA said: “We’re seeing more natural and organic entries into that area. We doubled the size of that area last year because there is huge interest. Despite being at the back of the hall, it tends to be one of the most vibrant areas of the entire show.”
“There’s a food exploration going on in America. You’ve got ethnic diversity with new, interesting flavor combinations.”
He said that the gourmet marketplace was often where such flavors were seen for the first time, potentially helping specialty products move into the mainstream.
Natural and single origin
Natural ingredients, natural flavors and natural colors are also enjoying a surge, according to the organizers, as well as single origin chocolate.
Promotion in Motion CEO Michael Rosenberg, an executive board member of the NCA, added that consumers were prepared to pay a premium for certain goods.
“In the chocolate category, you’re seeing a lot of single origin. People want to indulge, but they want to indulgence in something good – they are looking for good ingredients in their products and will pay a little bit more for something they perceive to be a little bit better.”
The Sweets & Snacks Expo is expecting around 620 exhibitors and over 130 new exhibitors.
“We’re seeing an increased international interest in our show,” said NCA president Larry Graham. “One objective we have is to have more buyers coming from Asia and South America, which are two growing areas of the world for candy consumption.”
The show will welcome back Brazilian, Chinese, German, Ecuadorian and Mexican pavilions and will also host a European Confections pavilion for the first time. At last year’s show, 12% of visitors travelled from outside the US.
Industry health check
The expo has already sold out for exhibitors and the NCA said this evidenced the strength of the industry.
“Our prospects for the category are very strong,” said Wilson. “We’re seeing dollar growth and now unit growth is chasing dollar growth, which is very encouraging despite what has been a challenging economic time.”
“Chocolate continues to be hot, particularly dark chocolate. We’re also going to see gum revitalized again – the manufacturers are making some bold moves in product and merchandizing innovation so we should see some health come back to that segment.”
Awards and new product showcase
The expo will again feature an area for exhibitors to showcase new products. Promotion In Motion’s CEO Rosenberg said: “We always work to make the new product showcase a focal point. It’s an opportunity for buys domestically and globally to see where the market is going and it gives them an idea of things that they’ll be looking for and want to see.”
The most innovative new product awards will also make a return under new rules.
“It used to just be customer voting, which was just a fashion show on the label. Now we have a tasting panel with news editors, leading retailers and previous leadership award winners,” said Wilson.
Conferences and seminars
The NCA has lined a conference schedule that includes NBC News’ chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman talking about confections as part of a balanced diet.
“We’re doing a lot in the merchandizing area. Last year we started seminars during the show on how to merchandize candy better in whatever particular channel or trade you are in,” said NCA head Larry Graham.
Larry Wilson added that the seminars would teach manufacturers and retailers to maximize everyday confection sales in store, for example by creating interruption points with displays.
“You’ve got a lot of energy in the category that is often wasted by the presentation of many retailers,” he said.