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CHICAGO -- Sponsored by the National Confectioners Association (NCA), last month’s 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo hosted a sold-out show at Chicago’s McCormick Place to an audience of more than 15,000 qualified industry professionals -- a 10-percent rise in attendance over the previous year.
Square footage sold and new exhibitors also saw impressive increases of 9 percent and 17 percent, respectively, according to newly released Sweets & Snacks Expo figures from the NCA.
"For the fourth year in a row, the expo demonstrated significant growth in all areas," reported Larry Graham, president of Washington, D.C.-based NCA. "Our 10-percent increase in overall expo registration is an accomplishment we relish. In a challenging economy, it is apparent by the continued growth that our event provides vital tools, insights, innovations and resources that the industry values."
This year, 12 percent of expo visitors came to the show from 90 countries aside from the United States, resulting in double-digit international participation. "NCA recognizes the power of U.S. brands around the world and we feel the 2013 expo successfully positioned itself as a destination for world markets to come together," Graham added. "We plan to continue expanding our global efforts and outreach for future shows by partnering with firms including Planet Retail and Euromonitor."
Among the expo's noteworthy features this year was the Shopper Solutions Theater, where visitors could learn about merchandising displays in the Gallery of Success and then attend one of the Learning Lab sessions presented by experts. The Most Innovative New Product Awards, judged by a panel representing all facets of the industry, also returned as a show highlight.
Tim Quinn, expo chairman and vice president of trade development for Hackettstown, N.J.-based Mars Chocolate North America, noted that new product submissions for the awards were up 17 percent from the year prior despite a flat year of new product releases, according Datamonitor.
"This demonstrates how manufacturers see the Sweets & Snacks Expo as a vital vehicle in promoting and sharing product innovation within the candy and snack industry," Quinn stated.
Other milestones from this year's show include:
- A 360-degree social media outreach program resulted in thousands of tweets, postings and picture uploads. The expo’s Facebook likes increased 38 percent.
- Thousands downloaded the official Sweet & Snacks Expo app to engage with other attendees, download exhibitor show materials and find their way around the show floor.
- The all-new virtual media center featured 100 news releases, twice the amount of 2012.
- For the third year in a row, Innovation Alley presented candy- and snack-related startup companies that worked the show for solid contacts to jumpstart their businesses.
- A park-like concourse with trees and music offered creative market shops selling items such as candy-themed accessories.
"We have evolved into so much more than just a show. Attendees come to find not only new product innovations, but also effective business strategies and inspiring ideas and solutions," observed Quinn. "The Expo is a proven destination that 96 percent of past retailers surveyed recognize as a solid business value…We promise the industry to continue to over-deliver in 2014 on the entire expo experience that has led to a four-year growth track record."
The 2014 Sweets & Snacks Expo is slated for May 20-22 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, and is already more than 85 percent sold out despite an increased show floor, according to the NCA.