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CHICAGO — The National Confectioners Association's (NCA) 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo kicked off Tuesday at Chicago's McCormick Place West, housing a sold-out show for the fifth consecutive year. This year's event also marks the expo's 20th anniversary celebration.
Taking place May 23-25, the 2017 expo welcomes more than 800 exhibitors spanning two expo halls: the main show floor and Skyline Hall's Innovation Avenue, which showcases companies that are just launching their confection and snack businesses.
A buzz surrounding this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo is the "groundbreaking" commitment from leading confectionery companies to provide consumers with information, options and support as they enjoy their favorite treats, according to the NCA. In cooperation with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), the initiative — which was announced earlier this month — includes three elements: information with calorie labels on the front of packaging; options that give consumers choices in smaller packaging; and support to provide consumers with informed choices.
The companies involved in the initiative are Mars Chocolate North America, Wrigley, Nestlé USA, Ferrero, Lindt, Ghirardelli, Russell Stover and Ferrara Candy Co.
Referring to it as a "commitment to leadership," Chris Gindlesperger, vice president of public affairs and communication for NCA, said the initiative is at the "cornerstone of transparency," showing consumers how chocolate and candy play a role in a happy, balanced lifestyle. His remarks were made during an invite-only media breakfast attended by Convenience Store News.
According to Gindlesperger, progress of this commitment will be monitored over the next five years and reported by PHA in conjunction with Hudson Institute, a policy research organization. By 2022, the participating confectionery and snack companies have promised that half of their individually wrapped products will be 200 calories or less, and 90 percent of their best-selling treats will feature calorie information on the front of the pack.
A newly established website, AlwaysATreat.com, will serve as an easy-to-use digital portal for consumers during the transition.
Buzz on the opening day of the 2017 Sweets & Snacks Expo also centered on the Most Innovative New Product Awards. Winners were announced during a special ceremony in Skyline Hall's Discovery Theater, hosted by Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert.
Category finalists and winners were determined by a judging panel that tested and evaluated more than 320 submissions — a double-digit increase over 2016. Judging criteria includes taste, innovation, packaging and go-to-market ability.
This year's winners are:
- Chocolate: M&M'S Caramel Chocolate Candies, Mars Chocolate North America
- Non-Chocolate: Jelly Belly Krispy Kreme Gift Box, Jelly Belly Candy Co.
- Sweet Snacks: Nerds Lucha Grande — Mango Chile and Guava, Nestlé USA Inc.
- Salty Snacks: The Daily Crave Gouda & Romano Cheese, The Daily Crave
- Savory Snacks: Snyder's of Hanover Wholey Cheese!/Mild Cheddar, Snyder's-Lance Inc.
- Novelty/Licensed: Trolli Sour Brite Dip'n Crawlers, Ferrara Candy Co. Inc.
- Seasonal: Ghirardelli Chocolate Strawberry Bark, Ghirardelli Chocolate Co.
- Gourmet/Premium: Anastasia Coconut Cashew Crunch Dark Chocolate Drizzle, Las Olas Confections and Snacks
- Gum & Mints: Tic Tac Gum Freshmint, Ferrero USA Inc.
- Best in Show: Reese's Crunchers, The Hershey Co.
Additionally, Buddha Brands Co.'s Hungry Buddha + Probiotic Coconut Chips in Cheeky Chocolate was the recipient of the inaugural Small Business Innovator Award. This new award is specially designed to highlight companies with net sales of $500,000 and under.
The 2017 Most Innovative New Product Awards marked the sixth year of the program.