As you may have heard, The Sweets and Snacks Expo is going to be a lot bigger next year.
Late last week, the National Confectioners Association announced that it would be adding an additional hall to the event, which is held in Chicago’s McCormick Place every May.
So the largest candy show in North America is getting larger.
On the surface, the decision to add the Skylink Hall — which will have space for more than 130 new companies and is located across the concourse on the same level as the current West Hall — may seem like a no brainer. I mean, how could growing a show ever be a bad thing?
And it is true that more companies will have the opportunity to get off the wait list and onto the show floor. Plus, obviously, that means the NCA gets more revenue by including more exhibitors. And, it will also give buyers a chance to see more items.
For its part, Jenn Ellek, with the NCA, says they actually spent about two and a half years conducting surveys and research on how to manage the incredible growth the Expo has experienced over the past five years. And they data showed that, “attendees want more innovation both in products and companies and we are in a position to offer this to them.”
She continues, “The candy and snacks categories represent the largest amount of SKUs in most stores so buyers coming to the Expo expect variety and choice. We are bringing them more than 130 new companies as well as additional ways to find innovations that work for their customers. We are also offering more segmented learning opportunities for snack and specialty purchasers and enhancing our networking opportunities.”
And, “There are several aspects of the Expo we are enhancing that visitors will have ample opportunity to see in both of our halls. By scaling back on our keynote sessions in the morning and bringing more learning labs to both halls we are confident that visitors will taking advantage of exploring both halls.”
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential drawbacks.
In practice, having a second hall can cause all sorts of unintended consequences. I can think of one show in particular that features a second hall upstairs. Every time I talk to companies set up in that space they complain that they just don’t see the kind of traffic that companies get on the main floor.
And as someone walking the show, I can tell you from experience how hard it is to mentally convince yourself to walk the second hall when all you want to do is sit down and charge your cell phone.
In the past, I’ve seen shows try to lure bigger companies into the overflow areas, but something tells me the NCA isn’t going to convince Mars or Hershey to move into the SkyHall.
Not to mention the fact that Expo exhibitors in awkward spots (i.e., the back corner) already complain that visitors don’t make it to their booths. If people can’t even walk the entire show floor now, how are they going to do an entire second hall?
So, yes, there are good reasons that the NCA took so long to add the second hall, despite a constant waiting list of exhibitors trying to get into the show. There’s something to be said for culling down, and keeping things compact. In a world where we literally have all of humanity's information at our figure tips, sometimes it’s nice to see things in a small, focused environment.
There are no easy answers here. But it does sound like the NCA is aware of these issues and has some ideas to combat them.
For example, the new hall won’t just feature more companies, it will also showcase the latest emerging industry trends in the “Innovation Avenue.”
And in addition to containing a second knowledge center specializing in tracks on snacking, specialty trends as well as the newest consumer and shopping trends, the Most Innovative New Products Awards showcase and ceremony will be also located in the new hall.
All good ideas for luring people across the hallway into the second exhibition hall.
I just hope they work.