Education, New Products the Focus for Sweets & Snacks Expo

The annual event returns to Chicago’s McCormick Place in late May and features dozens of private brand suppliers.
Greg Sleter
Associate Publisher/Executive Editor
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Sweets & Snacks Expo
The Sweets & Snacks Expo returns to McCormick Place in Chicago.

The snack food world will return to Chicago, Ill. in late May as the annual Sweets & Snacks Expo will convene starting May 22 at McCormick Place. This year’s event will offer several new features along with leading product supplies, including a host of companies that produce a broad range of products for retail private brand programs. 

To offer a look at the show, Store Brands spoke with Lauren Boland, spokesperson for the Sweets & Snacks Expo. She highlighted the educational opportunities at the show and discussed the overall strength of the sweets and snacks segment. 

STORE BRANDS: With this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo, is there an overall theme of the event?

LAUREN BOLAND: At the 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo, attendees can find actionable insights through diverse education sessions, discover cutting-edge innovations – while sampling the best products from both categories – and make meaningful connections with other category and retail industry professionals. 

SB: Are there any new features of the show that retailers should know about?

LB: In addition to all the new products that will debut at Sweets & Snacks this year, we will launch a new show feature to highlight product innovation in the confectionery and snack categories for a select few first-time exhibitors. It is called 5x5. Five confectionery companies and five snack companies will pitch their new products to a panel of retailers – and do so in five minutes or less. Attendees will be able to gain valuable feedback and tips from snack buyers and category managers.  

We also expanded our education opportunities to include sessions focused on the supplier community. These sessions will discuss strategies and trends around the topic of sustainability within the confectionery industry.

With National Candy Month fast approaching, we have an education session dedicated to maximizing summer sales between Easter and Halloween by tapping into this candy moment in June. National Candy Month: A Blueprint for Success shares how this moment provides a $500 million incremental sales opportunity between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This session will guide retailers in their preparation to activate on this exciting sales opportunity in 2024 and beyond. 

SB: What are some of the bigger consumer trends that are driving sales in the sweets & snacks segment?

LB: Sweets & Snacks Expo attendees will be able to learn more about trends in confectionery and snack products by participating in our education sessions. Here are a few examples: 

  • The State of Treating session will dive into the National Confectioners Association's 2023 State of Treating report and provide a deeper understanding of consumers' desires against the backdrop of a challenging economic environment. This session will also cover shifts in the retail landscape and opportunities for retailers to support continued confectionery category growth in the future.
  • The State of Snacking session will provide our perennial view of the macro-snacking universe and occasions from a shopper, consumer and retailer perspective.
  • Bell Flavors & Fragrances will host Bold Choices: Flavor Trends in Snacks, a session exploring recent flavor trends in the snacks category.

SB: What impact have economic concerns such as inflation had on both the snacks and sweets categories?

LB: The confectionery category remains resilient, with sales surpassing $42 billion in 2022, representing more than 11% growth in dollar sales over 2021. While confectionery sales have been boosted by inflation, this increase also speaks to the important and unique role that chocolate and candy play in the lives of consumers. In fact, 74% of consumers agree that confectionery remains an affordable treat even in these challenging economic times.

SB: We have seen growth in private brand product sales over the past couple of years. What impact have the sweets and snacks categories seen with growing sales of private label products at retail?

LB: Confectionery and snack product sales have grown as consumers look to celebrate seasonal moments longer and make everyday celebrations a little more enjoyable, including private label products. According to NCA's 2023 State of Treating report, sales of chocolate and candy grew 11.1% over 2021 and 22.1% over 2019. 

SB: For product suppliers, what impact has the growing issues around sustainability had on their businesses? What are the hot sustainability topics and issues discussed in the sweets and snacks categories?

LB:Sustainability remains a critically important consideration for suppliers as they look to create and develop products that meet the needs of their consumers. The 2023 State of Treating report found that consumers view transparency as the currency of trust, and 43% prefer to learn about the brand's efforts on issues like sustainability from the package label.  

This is a theme in many of our education sessions for the 2023 Sweets & Snacks Expo. Our education program features 40 sessions that will run on three stages throughout the show, including specific supplier-focused sustainability sessions:

  • The Intersection of Indulgence and Sustainability; A New Era of Consumerism: In this session, Barry Callebaut will review trends and insights on how behavior shifts impact how consumers indulge in chocolate and other treats as they drive demand for sustainably sourced ingredients and ESG commitments.
  • Sustainable Packaging – Trends, Drivers and Solutions: Using statistical information and real case studies, manufacturers and retailers will learn how to stay ahead of the ever-evolving customer preferences in packaging. 
  • Partnering for Packaging Sustainability: Experts from Ferrero will describe their work to not only reduce waste and improve recyclability in the packaging of their products but the leadership role they take in helping to improve recycling systems overall.
  • Consumer Appetite for Sustainability: Numerator will cover the latest sustainability trends in sweets and snacks - diving into how ethical sourcing, sustainable production practices and recyclable packaging impact shoppers buying sweets and snacks.
  • The Evolving Business Case for Sustainability: This session will take a deep dive into the NielsenIQ and McKinsey & Company research report to understand what truly matters to consumers regarding sustainability and learn what sustainable claims are registering with consumers in the snacks category.