Sweets & Snacks Expo 2021

Exclusive – Sweets & Snacks Expo to return to its hometown Chicago in 2022 for 25th anniversary after this year’s swerve to Indianapolis

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

The Indiana Convention Center - home this year to the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Pic: Indiana Convention Center
The Indiana Convention Center - home this year to the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Pic: Indiana Convention Center

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‘We are grateful to the City of Indianapolis and the Indiana Convention Center for their efforts in ensuring a safe and successful event, as they have with many major events over the past few months including the NCAA tournament,’ said John Downs, ahead of this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo. 'As for 2022, we’ll be returning to Chicago,' he confirmed to this publication.

Speaking exclusively to ConfectioneryNews, John Downs, CEO & President of the National Confectioners Association said the Sweets & Snacks Expo will be “a very special show this year​”.

With recent safety guidance from the CDC (America’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Downs said the easing of social distancing requirements and declaring that domestic travel is safe, this year’s Expo is well-timed for the confectionery and snack industries and its retail partners.

'While the event will be different than in past years, we’re excited to get back to business – and, of course, make meaningful connections, gain category insights, and experience two years of product innovation on the show floor --​ John Downs, NCA CEO & President

You can almost hear a collective sigh of relief from the industry that the Expo is going ahead in 2021, in Indianapolis, after the disappointment of last year’s cancellation due to the onset and severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sweets & Snacks Expo 2021​ comes with a new venue, new city and new date after 22 years of being held in Chicago, primarily at the huge McCormick Place.

While the event will be different than in past years, we’re excited to get back to business – and, of course, make meaningful connections, gain category insights, and experience two years of product innovation on the show floor​,” said Downs.

He said the show’s move to Indianapolis for the 2021 show will allow it to offer an in-person event, “for which we have seen immense support from within the industry​”.

Downs confirmed that Indianapolis has invested $7m in the convention centre facilities for enhanced safety measures, including hospital-grade air filtration, touchless doors, Clorox 360 sanitation, hand sanitizer stations and safe concessions and dining areas.

Additionally, we will have safety protocols in place that reflect guidance from the CDC and local health authorities​.

We are thrilled to have so much support and look forward to welcoming attendees to the must-attend event for leaders within the candy and snack industries. And as for 2022, we’ll be returning to Chicago," ​he said.

Sweet & Snacks Expo Highlights:


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 US 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.



Cancelled due to global COVID-19 pandemic.


Sweets & Snacks Expo moves out of Chicago for the first time in its history and is held at the Indiana Convention Center.

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