Chris Gindlesperger, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs & Communications at the National Confectioners Association (NCA) said attendance was almost back to 2019 levels when the expo was last held in Chicago. It missed a year in 2020 and then was held in a reduced capacity format in Indiana in 2021 because of the Covid-19 restrictions.
As the Expo acknowledges its past with a special exhibition that stretches back to 1977, North America’s premier and largest B2B confectionery and snacks event looks to the future, and this year it is reflecting new consumer trends with a strong plant-based or alternative presence from companies.
The message was reinforced at a special awards ceremony on the eve of the opening where the Most Innovative New Product Awards for 2022 were announced, and where Lindt & Sprüngli (USA), Lindt won the Chocolate category for its CLASSIC RECIPE OatMilk.
Sweets & Snacks brings in $21m to the local economy and covers over four-and-a-half acres of floor space, with 110 exhibitors at the popular Supplier Showcase.
Gindlesperger said that 20% of exhibitors this year are diversity-owned and come from around the world. Another feature of the Expo is ‘Start-up Street’, where new companies can receive important early exposure to the markets.
The Expo is also a mecca for plant-based companies this year. “Alternative or new and innovative ingredients are really coming through, and companies are really meeting the consumer where they want to be met, with, for example, the new wholefruit chocolate by Barry Callebaut,” said Gindlesperger.
Named the winner of the 2022 Ruby Award for Supplier Innovation in recognition of its WholeFruit Chocolate, Barry Callebaut’s new chocolate format is made from 100% pure cacaofruit.
The 2022 Ruby Award marks the second time Barry Callebaut has received this honour. The Ruby Award for Supplier Innovation was named for its inaugural recipient in 2018: Ruby chocolate, which was also developed by Barry Callebaut.
“Innovation in the chocolate and candy industry often starts with our suppliers,” said John Downs, president & CEO of the National Confectioners Association. “The new flavours, formats and ingredients they develop fuel our industry’s creativity all the way down the confectionery supply chain, all to the benefit of our consumers, who get to enjoy a novel and inventive treat as a result of their innovative spark.”
2022 Most Innovative New Product Award Winners (MINPA)
MINPA not only sets the agenda for the Expo, but the winners set flavour and product trends across the confectionery and snack industries and beyond for the coming 12 months.
These products have been developed over the last year and are now available on store shelves or will be made available to shoppers in the coming months.
“Innovation puts the candy and snack categories in the driver's seat when it comes to flavour and product trends, and the 2022 Most Innovative New Product Awards continue to highlight those that accelerate us into the future,” said Downs.
“Consumers have been making life at home a little more enjoyable over the past two years by incorporating their favourite treat or snack into their lives in a way that has brought a variety of new flavours and fun to their daily routines.”
Retail leaders representing 85% of the confectionery and snack categories’ buying power served as judges across the 13 categories that comprise the Most Innovative New Product Awards, including Small Business Innovator and the highly coveted Best in Show designation, and ultimately evaluated more than 300 candy and snacks.
The winners of the Most Innovative New Products Awards are as follows:
- Best in Show: Trü Frü, LLC. Natures Strawberries Hyper-Chilled Fresh in Ruby Cacao
- Small Business Innovator: Carrot Bacon - Carolina Smoke
- Chocolate: Lindt & Sprüngli (USA), Inc. Lindt CLASSIC RECIPE OatMilk
- Non-Chocolate: Ferrara Nerds Gummy Clusters Very Berry 8oz
- Gum & Mints: Mars Wrigley US EXTRA Refreshers Fruity Mix Sugar-Free Chewing Gum
- Salty Snacks: KrackCorn, LLC KrackCorn Original Family Size
- Sweet Snacks: The Hershey Company Reese's Snack Bar
- Meat Snacks: 4505 Meats Chile Limon Chicharrones
- Savory Snacks: Pecan Nation Cinnamon Healthy Snacking Pecans
- Novelty/Licensed: Jelly Belly Candy Company Jelly Belly Harry Potter™ Butterbeer™ Barrel Tin
- Seasonal: Ferrero NA Kinder Holiday Mix Countdown Calendar
- Gourmet/Premium | Candy: Ferrero North America Nutella B-Ready
- Gourmet/Premium | Snack: Trü Frü, LLC Natures Strawberries Hyper-Dried Fresh and Immersed in Crème
Additionally, the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo announced the winners of the Golden and Silver Candy Dish Awards and the Woman of Influence Award during Monday’s presentation:
- 2022 Golden Candy Dish Award: Kathy Corcoran, vice president at Premier Specialty
- 2022 Silver Candy Dish Award: Lois Anthony, director of sales at PEZ
- 2022 Woman of Influence Award: Emily Edmondson, sales director at Galerie