While the move to Indianapolis next year may be a bittersweet inflection for some of the brands that have established themselves over the years, those that ConfectioneryNews spoke to said they are looking forward to embracing a new era and building on the success of the past quarter of a century.
And the Expo exited Chicago with the wind in its sails after organisers, the National Confectioners Association (NCA), announced a record 18,000 registrants came through the doors this year.
The Expo also attracted 800 exhibitors, 250 exhibiting for the first time, and included in the 200 international exhibitors was a delegation from Ukraine, who were supported by the US government to come and showcase their confections.
Christopher Gindlesperger, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs & Communications for the NCA, said the city has been a key building block for the trade show and an opportunity to see the latest innovations and what’s fresh on the candy and snack scene.
He said the Expo has a waitlist of 100+ companies and highlighted great examples of brand collaboration/mashups like the Stuffed Puffs S’mores innovation, a young company that has seen incredible growth since debuting in 2012.
Gindlesperger said candy and snacks are an affordable indulgence, and companies continue to show resilience in the face of recent global events like war, pandemics, and economic downturns.
The uplift was evident this year at the Expo, with a renewed sense of optimism clearly detectable from not only exhibitors and attendees but also the suppliers, brokers, and the NCA events team.
Ferrara is one of the companies who have experienced tremendous growth at the Expo over the years and has its roots firmly in Chicago. Nevertheless, Greg Guidotti, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, said leaving will be bittersweet but the new opportunities and space afforded by the move to Indianapolis and then Las Vegas will meet the demands of the industry in years to come.
Guidotti is responsible for sugar confections and fruit snacks across Ferrara’s Every Day and Seasonal Businesses and as CMO, he leads the brands’ equity and strategic delivering portfolio leadership, growth and profitability and said the company has been able to capitalize on the multi-sensorial trends with a series of innovations, like with the Nerds gummy clusters.
Andrew Clarke, President, Mars Wrigley, reported that gum category has also bounced back to near pre-pandemic levels but the category needs more innovation, compared with other sectors. He was pleased with the company’s recent acquisition of Tru Fru, which gives the company a presence in the permissible indulgence space.
Sustainability is a topic increasingly being talked about at the Expo and attendees heard that consumers are willing to switch to more sustainable brands, but price is still by far the main criteria for buying treats. Almost a third of consumers surveyed by insights company Numerator said they have no idea of a brand’s sustainability credentials and recommended education as a priority.
Heather K Terry, founder & CEO of ethical chocolate brand GoodSam, said consumers are becoming more curious about sustainability in their sweets and snacks and it is at the core of her brand’s mission to attract those who want chocolate that is ‘good for me and good for the planet’.
As a reminder of next year’s location for The Sweets & Snacks Expo, there was an Indy 500 car on display on the concourse and engines are already being revved to race back to Indianapolis where the show was held for the first time as a one-off in 2021, because of Covid restrictions in Illinois.
The Indiana Convention Center has a lot to live up to – but everyone at the NCA is up for the ride and confident of keeping the Expo firmly on track.