Sweets & Snacks Expo 2024

‘Keep calm and candy on’: 2024 Sweets & Snacks Expo opens doors to record-breaking show

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

John Downs (right) and Governor Eric J Holcomb launch the 2024 Sweets & Snacks Expo at the Indiana Convention Center. Pic: CN
John Downs (right) and Governor Eric J Holcomb launch the 2024 Sweets & Snacks Expo at the Indiana Convention Center. Pic: CN

Related tags Sweets & Snacks Expo Candy Confectionery Nca

This year’s premier event for the confectionery and snack categories in the Americas began its landmark new partnership with the City of Indianapolis in fine style, making the most of the famed ‘Hoosier hospitality’ with Indiana Governor Eric J Holcomb officially opening the Expo.

"This fantastic partnership between the Sweets & Snacks Expo, the City of Indianapolis, and the State of Indiana is so appreciated and represents a delicious future in the years ahead,” said Holcomb at a press conference.

The Expo is expected to draw 16,000 attendees to the Indiana Convention Center, which will house 1,000 exhibitors across over 250,000 square feet of show floor.

Centre of the sweets and snacks universe

For Indianapolis it’s easy to see how Sweets & Snacks Expo is at the centre of the sweets and snacks universe – and conveniently fills a gap in the city’s exhibition schedule ahead of the Indy 500 later this month.

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A record number of exhibitors has filled the Indiana Convention Center. Pic: CN

“Beyond the commercial impact the Sweets & Snacks Expo has on the Indianapolis-area economy, there is also another important economic impact driven by all the local candy and snack manufacturers that call Indiana home, providing thousands of jobs throughout our state,” Holcomb told the press.

We already have the largest contingent of international attendees we've ever had here in Indiana -- John Downs resident & CEO of the NCA

‘Keep calm and candy on,” he told the Expo, while pledging to be a proud partner of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), organisers of the Sweets & Snacks Expo.

For Sweets & Snacks, the Indiana Convention Center represents an opportunity to become an ‘Expo giant’ and create a space to make an impact.

“As we embark on this next chapter, there is no doubt that Indianapolis is the right city to meet the growing demand for our show, said John Downs, president & CEO of the NCA.

He said Indianapolis is used to hosting world-class events and agreed that the city will be a great strategic partner.

Speaking to ConfectioneryNews, Downs, said that so far, the gamble to move out of Chicago has paid off and this year the Expo has succeeded all expectations with a sell-out show.

The only issue is that when the Expo moves to Las Vegas in 2026 as part of a rotating deal between Indianapolis and Las Vegas until 2032, they will have space to meet continuing demand.

“Chicago was great for a home start, with that candy tradition and heritage, but moving out … I always knew was the right decision from the get-go,” said Downs.

“We needed to go somewhere else. We need a better fit, and this city fits us absolutely perfectly. It couldn't be better.

“I mean, the ease, the convenience, the infrastructure here, the attitude and the welcoming of the power structure of Indiana and Indianapolis, dealing both with the governor himself and his staff, the mayor and the visit Indy people … in terms of the deal, it wasn't really a heavy negotiation. It was pretty much like, hey, this is where we want to come, and you want us.”

Chicago’s loss is Indy’s gain, as the Expo is expected to generate an estimated $12 million for the city’s coffers.

Downs said the waiting list for companies to exhibit in Chicago was getting longer, and as the Expo’s host organisation company, they had to make the call to move out.

A new era for confectionery

This year’s show represents the start of a new era, not only for the Expo but for America’s candy industry, as it offers a reflection of the positivity, innovation, vibrancy, and confidence of the sector and walking the floor the mood among exhibitors and attendees is palpable,

“The industry is back, and you can see and feel it,” Downs confirmed. “Number one, Sweets and Snacks Expo is a tremendous platform, for these companies to showcase their innovation. And Number two, it's a tremendous platform for the smaller companies.”

The ‘keep calm and candy’ phrase from Governor Holcomb may imply a crisis in the chocolate industry. The price of cocoa skyrocketed earlier in the year before dropping at the beginning of the month.

Downs cites Hershey’s recent “fantastic” first quarter results​ as an example of the industry weathering the economic storm. If companies were worried, the Expo would have gaps in the exhibitor’s hall as companies cut back on marketing budgets.

Indianapolis was having none of it. For Downs and the NCA, it has allowed the Expo to look further afield and attract more international exhibitors.

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International exhibitors like Cordillera Chocolate from Colombia have been attracted to the Expo. Pic: CN

“The US is a major snack, candy, and confectionery market. We have to be in the world's top five markets, and we want to be leading the marketplace. We want that diversity and mix. We already have the largest contingent of international attendees we've ever had here in Indiana.”

Hoosier hospitality

The famed Hoosier hospitality was on full display when Sweets & Snacks Expo temporarily relocated to Indianapolis in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, which for Downs sowed the seed as a way for the show to expand.

“Indy has successfully hosted many of the country’s largest and most anticipated events and now Sweets and Snacks joins the ranks of these world-class events,” said Leonard Hoops, president and CEO of Visit Indy.

 “The show’s impact will reach beyond the Indiana Convention Center to all corners of Central Indiana. With an estimated economic impact of more than $12 million, Sweets & Snacks will be a boon to the entire region.”

The city of Indianapolis has a quiet, almost sleepy air to it, which one imagines changes when the race crowd comes to town in a couple of weeks. For now, the Sweets & Snacks Expo brings a sense of fun, vibrancy, and colour to its environs; if nothing else, it has the locals talking about candy.

Already, the show feels like part of the community, and they can’t wait to have it back in 2025.




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