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CHICAGO -- There's something sweet in the air this week in the Windy City, as nearly 600 exhibitors fill the show floor at the National Confectioners Association (NCA) 2012 Sweets & Snacks Expo, which opened yesterday to record-breaking attendance. The event, which runs through Thursday at McCormick Place, is the largest confectionery, cookie and snack show in the Americas and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the latest products and trends hitting the market.
The expo kicked off yesterday morning with a pair of keynote speeches by notable industry experts. SymphonyIRI Group's Sally Lyons Wyatt discussed the state of the confectionery and snack industry, as well as the roles that candy and snacks play in consumers' lives and how to tailor important messages to snacking consumers. In the other opening presentation, Dan Heath, best-selling author of "Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard" and "Made to Stick," detailed a three-part framework to help individuals drive successful change at home and at work.
Prior to the official opening of the expo floor yesterday, Mars Chocolate North America hosted a special presentation at its Historic Division of Mars booth. Mars Chocolate History Director Rodney Snyder walked attendees through an interactive history of cocoa, complete with samples of fresh, raw cocoa beans. The history lesson also included a live demonstration of how early Americans processed their chocolate and changed the way it had always been used.
"There's nothing more American than chocolate," noted Snyder. "[It's] as American as apple pie."
Later in the afternoon, tragedy struck the Just Born booth during a 2 p.m. press conference when company officials announced that candy stars Mike & Ike have broken up over creative differences and will be "going their own way to pursue other careers." Although packaging will now feature only Mike or Ike with the other's name scratched out, the candy itself will remain the same. President and COO David Yale urged fans to speak out via social media and the Mike & Ike Facebook page in hopes that a reunion could be in store.
Continuing today and tomorrow, candy manufacturers, distributors and packaging suppliers fill more than 143,000 square feet inside the expo hall. Vendors range from small family-owned operations to global heavyweights such as The Hershey Co., Mars and Kraft Foods, which are previewing products and campaigns that will launch later this year.
The back of the expo floor features an expanded Gourmet Marketplace and the "Taste of Gourmet," where upscale product demonstrations and tastings are taking place. Nearby is the Innovation Alley, which highlights a dozen of the industry's newest and coolest products.
Outside the show floor, attendees can visit a number of specialized display areas, such as the Magic of Merchandising display gallery, which showcases new permanent and temporary floor displays, and the Retail Solution Center, where leading point-of-purchase suppliers are offering profit-driven merchandising solutions. At the New Product Showcase, convenient hand scanners assist attendees in gathering booth information for the manufacturers of items on display.
More than 14,000 trade associates from more than 70 countries are expected to attend the 2012 Sweets & Snacks Expo by the time doors close on Thursday afternoon, according to the NCA. Additionally, 140 of this year's exhibitors are new to the show. Event news and updates are available at www.sweetsandsnacks.com.