The National Confectioners Association (NCA) introduced the show in 1997 under its original name — All Candy Expo — with a vision of bringing manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers together to facilitate business opportunities.
During the uninterrupted 22 years, the Sweets & Snacks Expo has made that vision a reality while experiencing unprecedented growth.
Sadly, the annual fixture on the candy calendar will not be taking place this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers NCA acted swiftly to cancel the show in March, on health and safety grounds, which was due to take place in Chicago from May 18-21, and says it will go ahead as usual in 2021.
A spokesperson for the NC told ConfectioneryNews: “As you are likely hearing from others, COVID-19 is presenting logistical hurdles this year, but the companies are talking to their retail partners about 2021 and beyond, and we expect that this will be a great candy moment.
“Our member companies are doing a lot to support their communities during the pandemic. Together, the confectionery industry has contributed millions of dollars to assist in coronavirus relief efforts and a lot of chocolate and candy to help lift the spirits of frontline health workers.”
In the meantime, we thought we would look back at the history of the Sweets & Snacks Expo, starting with the first All Candy Expo when it was held at Chicago’s Navy Pier, welcoming 210 exhibitors and drawing retailers from across the candy spectrum.
The show changed its name in 2010 to the Sweets & Snacks Expo to better represent the full range of products on display and meet the evolving needs of the retail and wholesale communities.
“The Sweets & Snacks Expo is committed to curating the newest and most innovative products and retail solutions for attendees, enabling them to anticipate what shoppers want with confidence,” said Barry Rosenbaum in 2018, who is Expo chairman and president of Nassau Candy Distributors, Inc. “From exploring new and innovative products to customized learning, the Expo is crucial to any successful candy, snack or specialty professional.”
Following is a timeline of significant events throughout the 22-year history of the Sweets & Snacks Expo:
The first All Candy Expo is held at Chicago’s Navy Pier with 210 exhibitors and retailer attendees from all classes of trade.
The All Candy Expo moves to McCormick Place Lakeside Center. Retailer attendance is up 80% since the first show. The New Product Showcase makes its debut, along with the International Welcome Center. More than 97% of the U.S. confectionery market is represented on the show floor.
Trade Show Week magazine names the All Candy Expo one of the 200 largest trade shows in the country. The number of exhibiting companies begins to approach 500.
The All Candy Expo is the first trade show in the brand new West Building of McCormick Place. NCA begins to allow exhibitors to showcase an increased amount of snack products to meet the buying needs of retail and wholesale customers. The increased space in the new venue allows NCA to introduce the Gourmet Marketplace (known today as the Specialty Market).
Innovation Alley (now called Innovation Avenue) debuts at the Expo to highlight 10 start-up companies trying to make a name for themselves in the highly competitive world of confectionery and snacks. Trade Show Executive magazine includes the Expo on its list of the 50 fastest-growing trade shows, noting the increase in number of exhibitors. The Expo begins to appeal to a more international audience; international visitors account for more than 15% of total retailer registrations.
NCA launches the prestigious Most Innovative New Products Awards to honor innovation in several product categories including candy, chocolate, sweet and savory snacks.
Expo debuts the Shoppers Solutions Theater (now known as the Sweet Insights Theater), a solutions-driven educational program featuring 20-minute learning lab style sessions with subject matter experts that take place during show hours on the show floor. Rapidly growing retailer engagement catapults the Sweets & Snacks Expo once again onto Trade Show Executive’s Fastest 50 list, this time for an impressive increase in retail and wholesale attendance.
The Expo E.X.C.I.T.E. Awards recognize NCA and the Sweets & Snacks Expo for excellence in marketing, as creative and forward-thinking outreach has led to notable increases in both exhibitor and retailer attendance. The show’s global appeal continues to expand as more than 90 countries are represented at the event.
The growing popularity of NCA’s learning labs sessions in the Sweet Insights Theater leads to the introduction of the Sweet Insights Summer Series, a distance learning initiative that takes a deeper dive into topics presented at the Expo throughout the months that follow.
The new Skyline Hall opens at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, bringing the total number of exhibiting companies to 760 – a 22% increase over 2015. An additional show floor theater is added to meet increasing demand for insights into the sweets and snacks industries; more than 25 speakers are featured in standing-room-only sessions. Attendance eclipses 17,000 for the first time in the show’s history, driven by double-digit customer attendee growth.
The annual trade show floor is sold out with a wait list for the fifth consecutive year. It welcomed more than 17,000 attendees from 90 different countries with almost 800 exhibitors displaying innovative products from confectionery, snack and speciality categories.
New features included:
- The launch of the Small Business Innovator Award as part of the 2017 Most Innovative New Products Program, which highlights companies with net sales of $500,000 or less; and
- The debut of Destination Retail, which encompasses the Merchandising Gallery of Success, as well as new technology pods demonstrating in-store advances from leading companies.
Trade Show Executive magazine adds Sweets & Snacks Expo to its ‘Fastest 50’ list, recognizing the fastest-growing trade shows worldwide.
New and enhanced features for the 2018 Sweets & Snacks Expo included:
- 150+ first time exhibitors
- New Product Showcase – featuring more than 350 of the hottest new candy, snack, flavor, product, and packaging innovations.
- Most Innovative New Product Awards
- Enhanced Destination Retail experience.
In 2019, the NCA said the Expo attracted:
- More than 825 exhibitors at the show – and more than 200 of these were first time exhibitors
- 1,300+ brand were represented on the show floor with more than 25 cutting-edge education sessions offered
- More than 90 countries represented at the show
- 300+ submissions to the Most Innovative New Product Awards.
“The Sweets & Snacks Expo has evolved into the candy and snack industry’s premier destination for showcasing new products, ideas and business solutions to strengthen the category,” Rosenbaum said. “I’m proud to say I’ve been there since the beginning and look forward to what the next 20 years have in store.”