NEW YORK — More than 15,300 people attended the 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo at Chicago's McCormick Place last month, representing a more than 10% increase in attendees over 2012, the organization that sponsors the trade show said.
The National Confectioners Association said that the expo, which took place May 21 to 23, included 164 new exhibitors, compared with 140 last year, and sold 157,100 sq. ft. of space, a 9% increase over last year's 144,000 sq. ft. This year, 15,389 industry professionals attended, compared with last year's 14,010.
"For the fourth year in a row, the expo demonstrated significant growth in all areas," NCA president Larry Graham said. "Our 10% increase in overall expo registration is an accomplishment we relish. In a challenging economy, it is apparent by the continued growth that our event provides vital tools, insights, innovations and resources that the industry values."
Among the visitors to the expo, 12% were from outside the United States, with people from more than 90 countries attending. More than 6,000 candy and snack trade customers registered to attend, representing distribution channels like grocery, convenience stores and mass merchandise, as well as niche and specialty outlets.
"We have evolved into so much more than just a show," Mars Chocolate North America VP trade development and expo chairman Tim Quinn said. "Attendees come to find not only new product innovations, but also effective business strategies and inspiring ideas and solutions. With the addition of the new show-wide networking reception on Wednesday afternoon, we provided another opportunity for manufacturers and customers of every size to connect with current contacts as well as forge new business partnerships."
Educational features included the Shopper Solutions Theater, which showcased merchandising displays, and Learning Lab sessions. The show also included the Most Innovative New Product Awards, for which a panel comprising retail customers, food industry and trend experts narrowed down a field of more than 200 new product entries the day before the show started, analyzing taste, packaging, innovation and go-to-market feasibility. Retailers cast more than 2,000 ballots on the first day of the show, with winning products announced during the keynote sessions the following day.
Highlights from the show included keynote sessions with Duke University's Coach K, columnist George Will, Leon Nicholas of Kantar Retail and Saatchi & Saatchi X CEO Dina Howell. The Gourmet Marketplace included an enhanced "Taste of Gourmet" area showcasing artisans conducting upscale pairings and demonstrations, while Innovation Alley featured new candy and snack-related startup companies. A park-like concourse with trees and music featured market shops, including a fashion kiosk with custom-made dresses made from candy wrappers and candy- and snack-themed jewelry and accessories.