Most trade shows go unnoticed by the public, who’ve no reason (nay, inclination) to attend. In my 10 years as a journalist, I’ve walked countless conventions in locales ranging from Chicago (a personal favorite … but I’m biased) to Tupelo, Miss., (birthplace of Elvis Presley) to San Francisco (I left my heart there once) to Cologne, Germany (Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Ich weiß nicht.).

No one has ever said, “Take me with you!” That is, not until I started attending the All Candy Expo.

Just the other day, a friend asked if it was coming up soon.

“Yes,” I replied. “This month.”

What followed was the usual plea: “Any way you can sneak me in?”



She’s not the only friend to inquire about “the candy show.” Someone once offered to pay me for a badge. (I didn’t ask how much.) They’ll just have to wait for some post-show samples (if I’m feeling generous, that is).

This year, they will include more than just candy and chocolate. The expo underwent a name change for 2010 to better convey what it has to offer. In the past, confectionery companies were the chief exhibitors at the annual event. Over the years, beef jerky producers came onboard, as did manufacturers of chips and popcorn, for example. Today, snack makers officially join the list, as evidenced by our preview of the Sweets & Snacks Expo.

Both sweets and snacks will be featured in the New Products Marketplace, where visitors can find the “newest, coolest, latest, greatest” introductions on the market (and some not yet on the market). In addition, keynote speakers will address what those products mean to consumers. Read: women.

What do women want? Men may think they know … but most have no idea (not even Mel Gibson). So the National Confectioners Association decided to go straight to the source with an Opening Day panel featuring Lisa Bodell, ceo of futurethink; Michele Bowman, co-founder of AndSpace Consulting; Lynn Dornblaser, director of CPG Trend Insights at Mintel; and Kim Moldofsky, blogger and founder of

“Mom’s opinion matters,” as MomImpact states. After all, moms do most of the shopping, making them a target audience for mass marketers. Enter Chicago native Moldofsky, a “Social Media Mom” with a “knack for matching people with resources as well as matching people with other people, to create mutually beneficial relationships,” according to her site.

One important relationship is between the retailer and suppliers of point-of-purchase displays. Attendees can find “unlimited ideas on improving your merchandising of everyday and seasonal programs, then reaping the rewards at the cash register” at the expo’s Merchandising Solution Center. Also well-positioned on the show floor is the popular Gourmet Marketplace, a destination for buyers of gourmet, premium and organic goods. Within it, Taste of Gourmet offers demonstrations “featuring talent from the industry’s top confectionery companies, including Chuao Chocolatier, The French Pastry School, Dove Chocolate, Green & Black’s and Hello Cupcake.”

Countless other events include two from Candy Industry/Retail Confectioner.

On Tuesday, May 25, swing by booth #247 between 1 and 3 p.m. to meet Katharine Weber, author of “True Confections.” Weber contacted me a couple months back after I blogged about her novel, which I received as a birthday present. I’ve since interviewed her about why she chose our industry as subject matter.

“Everyone loves candy, and everyone is curious about how it’s made, and everyone has such an emotional response to the candy of childhood, especially,” Weber says. “So it seemed like a wonderful world in which to locate my story.”

“I think I fabricated ‘True Confections’ the way you set about dreaming up a complex combination bar, aiming for those irresistible surprising contrasts of salty and sweet, crunch and goo, irresistible sweetness and chewy texture with a particular nutty flavor that lingers long after you have swallowed the final morsel,” she summarizes.

(Weber certainly has a way with words.)

On Wednesday, May 26, Candy Industry will celebrate the 65th annual Kettle Awards at the Union League of Chicago (a new, exclusive venue). Join us for cocktails between 6:30 and 8 p.m., when the winner will be revealed. The 2010 nominees are Edward Seguine, chocolate research fellow for Mars Chocolate North America; Michael Rosenberg, president and ceo of The Promotion in Motion Cos., Inc.; Eric Atkinson, president of Atkinson Candy Co.; and John Brooks, president of Adams & Brooks, Inc. (For details, turn to page 71 of Candy Industry.) Can’t make it? Read a special edition of our sweet & healthy eNewsletter that night for the big news. (Subscribe at

I already know who won. 

But I’m not telling.

Neither is Candy Industry Editor Bernie Pacyniak. Like all good journalists, we know how to keep our mouths shut (and how to keep the hoi polloi out of the Sweets & Snacks Expo.) Sorry, friends. This secret’s not for sale.