Sweets & Snacks Expo

Chicago, ‘Candy Capital’ of the world

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

Chicago has been home to the Sweets & Snacks Expo for the past 22 years. Pic: Unsplash
Chicago has been home to the Sweets & Snacks Expo for the past 22 years. Pic: Unsplash

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When the inaugural Sweets & Snacks Expo was held at held at Chicago’s Navy Pier in 1997, it appeared the candy industry had found its natural home ...

... Afterall, it’s where the National Confectionery Association began in 1884, and Chicago was home to over a thousand candy companies in its heyday when it was known as the ‘Candy Capital’ of the world.

Chicago's thriving sweets industry resulted from a culmination of economic, political, social and cultural events that helped shape the business of candy.

McCormick Convention Center


McCormick Place, home to the Sweets & Snacks Expo, is named in honor of Colonel Robert R McCormick, editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. It was Colonel McCormick who spearheaded the drive to build a world-class convention center, the largest in America, in the city of Chicago. Sadly, Col McCormick never lived to see his dream become a reality. The facility bearing his name opened in 1960, five years after his death.

After the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, Charles F Gunther is credited with introducing caramels to America and sold them from his Clark Street candy business, which burned completely to the ground in the fire. He built a new factory on 212 State Street and the entire lower level housed his ornate candy store.

Ruckheim and Eckstei was one of Chicago's first candy wholesalers, selling Cracker Jack confections. Milton Hershey is said to have visited the World Fair fair in 1893 and saw chocolate making equipment, inspiring him to open his own factory and create a chocolate legacy.

During Prohibition (1920-1933), the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol was banned nationally. As bars closed, ice cream shops and confection parlors opened as places to socialize and imbibe sweets. Beer companies, unable to manufacture lager, turned to making chocolate and candy.

In modern times, Tootsie Rolls, Brach’s, Frango, Wrigley Gum, Fannie May, and Mars Candy were all based in Chicago, with Mars and Tootsie Roll still having a large presence in Chicago, along with the Ferrara Candy Company.

Source: https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/

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