A Successful 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo Is a 25th Anniversary Treat for the Industry

June 17, 2022

Celebrating 25 years of innovation and trendsetting in the confectionary and snack industries, the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo drew nearly 16,000 total attendees, including nearly 700 exhibitors and more than 110 exhibitors in the Supplier Showcase, to Chicago’s McCormick Place May 23-26.

This year’s show spanned 4.5 acres of candy and snack innovation and focused on the show’s evolution over the past 25 years and its history of offering new confectionery and snack products, actionable insights and opportunities for members of the industry to connect. 

“There’s no better way to celebrate this milestone anniversary for the Sweets & Snacks Expo than in Chicago with the full industry on display,” said John Downs, president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association, which sponsors the expo. “Throughout its history, the show has served as a launch pad for new products and companies and brought new ideas to the forefront of the candy and snack industries.”

Downs added, “I am proud of the work we have done to make the Sweets & Snacks Expo the premier trade show for the candy and snack industries, and I can’t wait to see what the next 25 years of innovation looks like from these dynamic and resilient categories.”

Impressive Evolution

Historically, the event has had a $21 million economic impact to the City of Chicago, with the following key milestones:

  • Originally known as the All Candy Expo, the first show was held in 1997 at Chicago’s Navy Pier and featured 210 manufacturing exhibitors.
  • In 2001, the All Candy Expo moved to the Lakeside Building of Chicago’s McCormick Place to accommodate a growing demand for exhibit space by the world’s leading confectionery manufacturers. Later, the show moved to West Hall and eventually expanded into the Skyline Ballroom as well.
  • In 2007, the All Candy Expo began using the tagline “It’s All About Sweets & Snacks,” foreshadowing the future of the show, and welcomed its first snack exhibitors. In 2010, the event name was officially changed to the Sweets & Snacks Expo.

Treat Trends

Attendees at the 2022 Sweets & Snacks Expo will got the first look at the latest candy and snack products, including those that are driving these key trends:

  • S’more Variety:  S’mores flavored treats—and everything you need to make them—are taking over this summer and throughout the year.
  • Flavor Intensity: Salty, sweet or turn up the heat? There’s something for everyone looking for a more amped up flavor in their favorite treat.
  • Newstalgia: This year, it was all about fresh and innovative twists on the classics.
  • All About Options: Everyone “treats” a little differently, which is why confectionery and snack companies are offering a range of package sizes and product types to meet every occasion.

Sweeting the Education Deal

This year, expo attendees had even more opportunities to make connections and gain insights into trends and best practices in the confectionery and snack industries.

The industry-specific education sessions gave attendees the opportunity to learn from experts, thought-provoking industry panels and confectionery and snack leaders tackling critical issues like supply-chain disruption, revolutionary confectionery and snack product innovation, social media’s influence on purchasing habits and post-pandemic shopping trends.

“The education sessions offered at the Sweets & Snacks Expo are unparalleled,” Downs said. “As consumer habits continue to change during this uncertain time, access to top-tier education and insights is more important than ever, and this year attendees had access to some of the brightest minds in the confectionery and snack industries, whether they were looking to prepare for National Candy Month in June, get inspired for a bigger social media presence or rethink their front-end strategy.”

In addition to a robust education schedule, attendees found insights across the show floor at these education-focused features:

  • Eye-Opener Education 
    Kicking off before the show floor opened, Eye-Opener education sessions featured insights for the early risers looking to get a jump on learning and connections for the day.

  • Insight Stage
    The Insights Stage, located in the West Hall, was the Sweets & Snacks Expo’s home for the latest data and insights on the confectionery and snack categories from industry thought leaders.

  • Innovation Stage
    The Innovation Stage made its debut at Sweets & Snacks Expo this year, providing attendees with industry trends, the latest and greatest confectionery and snack product innovations and more.

  • Destination Front-End
    Destination Front-End took a closer look at the front-end experience, covering topics from merchandising best practices, disruptions on the front-end, new technologies and more to help attendees learn to manage through this vital and ever-changing section of the store.

  • Ask an Expert Kiosks
    The Ask an Expert Kiosks hosted a selection of Sweets & Snacks Expo speakers immediately after their on-stage presentations for follow-up questions and added insights.

Awards Galore

The traditional Sweets & Snacks Expo Awards recognized numerous achievements among industry trailblazers, including the following:

  • Barry Callebaut, leading chocolate and cocoa product producer, 2022 Ruby Award for Supplier Innovation, in recognition of its WholeFruit Chocolate, a new chocolate format made from 100% pure cacaofruit.
  • Kathy Corcoran, vice president at Premier Specialty, 2022 Golden Candy Dish Award, in recognition of her performance above and beyond the call of business to promote and grow the confectionery industry.
  • Lois Anthony, director of sales at PEZ, 2022 Silver Candy Dish Award, in recognition of her significant contributions to growing the confectionery category and in support of the broker community. 
  • Emily Edmondson, sales director at Galerie, in recognition of her  superior leadership and industry mentorship, as well as her proven record of growth, success and influence of women in the confectionery industry and beyond

Meanwhile, the Sweets & Snacks Expo’s Most Innovative New Product Awards were presented to companies in more than 13 categories.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.