It’s always a treat to see Chicago’s McCormick Place transform into a wonderland of candy and snacks for the annual Sweets & Snacks Expo.

This year’s event, held May 21-23, brought together tried-and-true brands and upstarts seeking to carve out their place in an ever-changing market.
Favorite flavors such as caramel and coconut were once again on display, but manufacturers are not afraid to push boundaries, says Carly Schildhaus, spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association (NCA) the organization behind the Expo.
“With hundreds of innovations, insights and ideas to transform the world of chocolate, candy and snacks, Sweets & Snacks Expo is the most important annual event in the industry,” she said. “Sweets and snacks manufacturers have always been at the forefront of defining outstanding consumer experiences, setting trends and delivering a wide variety of options and choices. That excitement and the vibrancy of the category come to life on the floor of the show each year.”

The concept of mashing up different flavors and textures dominated among products expected to launch over the next year. At least three products from major manufacturers had the word “Duo” in their name, while a Trolli product from Ferrara — Sour Crunchy Crawlers — earned the highest honor in the NCA’s Most Innovative Product Awards.

And, in illustration of the growing interest in hemp, at least two hemp-based items were on display, including Baktwell Hemp Brownies from Cookies United and the Evo Hemp Protein Bar.

Also debuting at the 2019 Sweets and Snacks Expo was a completely redesigned Destination Retail. This space featured the latest in front-end merchandising, new candy and snacks shopping occasions, and merchandising solutions to transform the candy and snack buying experience.

Show attendees also explored the interactive space, which included a storefront replica and interior walking path that mirrors the in-store shopper experience. The area also highlighted new technology to attract shoppers as well as many innovative display vehicles.

And while as snacking continues to expand — as evidenced by the attendance of more than 350 snack companies — the NCA marked the third year of its Always A Treat initiative. It represents a five-year effort by the country’s leading chocolate and candy companies to support and inform consumers as they enjoy sweets.
By 2022, consumers will see a wider variety of pack sizes containing 200 calories or fewer and clearer front-of-pack nutrition information.
“Consumers are embracing the unique role that chocolate and candy can play in a happy, balanced lifestyle,” Schildhaus said. “We are leading the charge in providing more information, more options and more support for consumers to make informed choices.”

Find more coverage of the 2019 Sweets & Snacks Expo and past Expos here.