Talking Shop with… Larry Graham

Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association, says that this year’s event will be the largest ever and should offer quite a few new items for retailers to check out.

Grocery Headquarters: Tell us about the show this year.
Larry Graham: The 2012 Sweets & Snacks Expo, sponsored by the National Confectioners Association, will take place May 8-10 at McCormick Place in Chicago. The event is the largest venue in the Americas to see new product trends in a wide range of confectionery and snack categories. The 2011 Expo grew to its largest size in its 15-year history, hosting 556 companies showcasing more than three acres of candy and snack items. We are poised for even more growth in 2012. The opportunity for face-to-face meetings with 15,000 other industry professionals remains the single best way to see all that is new in one place, at one time and to make new contacts.

Our unique offering is that the Expo is the only show that represents all of the major U.S. distribution channels of confectionery and snack products in one location.  This is the largest confectionery, biscuit, cookie and snack event in the Americas, bringing buyers and sellers together to facilitate category growth.

How is this year’s show different?
New in 2012 will be the “Most Innovative New Product Awards.” Attendees can visit the rebranded “Most Innovative New Product Awards” showcase and get exposed to the most popular, hand-selected up-and-coming products in eight different product categories.

Product nominees in this new awards showcase are taste-tested by a panel of industry experts before the show with retailers casting the final votes live on the show floor. Category award winners are announced on the last day of the event.

Other show highlights include:

  • Explore Merchandising & Retail Solutions—Retailers can explore proven merchandising ideas and solutions at the Retail Solution Center and the Merchandising Display Gallery. They can find out what’s working for other retailers and learn how to merchandise their products to increase sales.
  • Discover Innovation—More than 30% of sales in the confectionery and snack categories are items that have been introduced to the market in the past two years. The New Product Showcase at the Expo boasts the largest collection of new confectionery and snack items before they hit the shelves. More than 3,000 confectionery and snack products are launched each year, making attendance critical to the retailers who want to see what is new each year.
  • Learn Strategies and Gain Insights—Attendees can learn from industry leaders and category experts about the latest trends in new products, in-store merchandising and snacking and how the economy may impact confectionery.
  • Experience the Gourmet Marketplace—Occupying a larger, more prominent area on the show floor, the Gourmet Marketplace has matured into a rich and creative resource at the Expo by providing access to hundreds of confectionery and snack companies displaying one-of-a-kind upscale products.

What is the best way for retailers to prepare for this event?
Our time-saving Expo App allows attendees to navigate the show floor on-site; connect with other attendees before, during and after the event; follow our dedicated Twitter feed; receive real-time show alerts and updates as well as view exhibitors’ product materials. It will make wholesalers’ and retailers’ Expo visits even easier and more interactive. For iPhones, Droids and BlackBerry devices—just search “SSE12” or “sweets expo” in your application store.

At the show, retailers can connect with more confectionery and snack industry professionals in one place. They will get inspired by proven brands as well as up-and-coming products, people and companies and tap into direct access to more manufacturers representing more product categories. It is the one destination to network face-to-face with global sales and marketing executives from leading manufacturers, importers, exporters, brokers and distributors.

How has the candy/snack category been performing? Are new products still the engine for growth?
Despite these challenging economic times, retailers are seeking confectionery and snack products because they are profitable, expandable, promotable and recession resistant. Confectionery and snacks are proven category successes even in this struggling economy.

Confectionery, cookies and salty snacks are the fastest-growing segment in stores, with sales up 3.8%; growing $1.2 billion in 2011, and the trend expected to continue.

In the U.S. in 2011, confectionery and gum and snacks account for 9% of in-store sales in food/drug/mass channels, excluding Walmart, according to SymphonyIRI Group.

Additionally, confectionery and snack category sales growth was marked at 11% while total store sales overall increased by only 3.3%. This is evidence of the power these two categories and that by promoting them in-store, retailers have an opportunity to grow their profit potential despite most other categories showing modest growth.

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