It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a week since I wrote my last column. At the time, it felt very bleak. But looking back, it was actually filled with a lot of optimism that already feels naive.
Just a few days ago, I was still quite hopeful the Sweets and Snacks Expo would be held in May, and that the event would serve as a chance to “get back to normal.”
“But if it gets canceled, or attendance is down dramatically, it will be hard not to see it as a flash point. As a clear sign of the hit we’ve taken as a society, and an industry, as a result of the coronavirus,” I wrote.
Well, on Tuesday night, we got word. The 2020 Sweets and Snacks Expo has been canceled. In a letter to the industry, NCA CEO and President John Down wrote:
“We are extremely disappointed not to be able to offer the experience, inspiration, insights and connections so many in our community have come to rely on in association with the event, but the health and welfare of our community is our top priority.”
It’s just the latest sign that none of us are “going back to normal” anytime soon.
Over the last week my “Coronavirus” folder in Outlook has filled with literally hundreds of emails. Every brand and supplier across the planet seems to have sent out something to its followers updating them on the status of things. And my news alerts for coronavirus come through constantly — despite the fact that I didn’t even know what the word meant just a few months ago.
Perhaps the most symbolic news came from Just Born, which announced it was shutting down production until at least April 7.
One of the Pennsylvania-based company’s most well-known products are Peeps, which have come to be a symbol of Easter in their own right. And many had been looking to the spring holiday as a hopeful end-game to all of this.
Even President Donald Trump has said he wants the nation "opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
The idea that the pinnacle Easter-candy company might not be able to get us all through this seemed overwhelming. But thankfully all hope is not lost!
“All of our Peeps have been produced and shipped to retailers for this upcoming Easter season,” the company announced.
So thankfully, even if many of us are confined to our homes, trying to “flatten the curve,” there will still be plenty of Easter cheer available in the form of bright, colorful Peeps — we may just need to order them on Amazon instead of grabbing them at the store.
And yet, companies like Just Born having Peeps pre-made will only get us all so far, as even they eluded to in their announcement.
“We do have inventory of Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and Goldenberg's Peanut Chews for the short term but may experience out of stocks on several individual items,” the company said.
It’s a potential peek into the future — a first-look at how the coronavirus is going to impact us in the long-term, and how it could ripple all the way to the candy aisle.
As more events get canceled or postponed further and further out — including the late-summer Olympics — it's hard to imagine things will be up and running again anytime soon.
So in the meantime, the only hope is to build a new normal. A world where more employees work from home, more candy is ordered online, and more people realize just how interconnected we all are.
And hopefully we all come out the other side a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser, and a little bit sweeter.