Confection Convention: Sweets & Snacks Expo Returns as First Post-Pandemic Food Show

The Sweets & Snacks Expo—a gathering that draws the biggest brands in candy, chocolate and snack foods sold at major retailers—made a sweet return as the first post-pandemic food show, taking place June 23-25 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.

For the first time in the show’s history of more than two decades, it switched host cities from Chicago to Indianapolis. The city’s track record of successfully hosting large-scale events such as the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament as well as $7 million in upgrades to the convention center for air filtration, touchless doors and sanitization protocol made it an attractive venue.

“We picked the right city for the right time,” says Christopher Gindlesperger, svp of public affairs and communications for National Confectioners Association, which sponsors the show. “With the unusual circumstances that we faced, we had to be pretty flexible and nimble in our decision making.”

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New show protocols mandated that exhibitors offer samples in individually wrapped packages, which Gindlesperger points out is in line with consumer trends of promoting portion sizes that help manage sugar and caloric intake. Additionally, show organizers eliminated sponsored food and beverage receptions and discouraged large off-site events. They also suggested mask-wearing, social distancing and frequent use of hand sanitizer.

With 8,000 attendees, the show met its attendance goal of more than 50 percent of its 2019 attendance of 15,000 people. The show took place entirely in person, with no hybrid or virtual components.

“The vibe on the floor is positive, and you can feel the energy when you step on the floor,” says Gindlesperger. “The pent-up demand to get back to business in person is very evident. The booth builds are very strong, vibrant and bold just like the companies and their products.”

Check out the event recap:


This year’s show also drew 460 exhibitors. Here’s a look at some of the stand-out booths:


Jelly Belly at Sweets & Snacks Expo 2021

Color-blocked jelly beans with built-in lighting made for welcoming counters in the Jelly Belly booth.

Jelly Belly

The jelly bean giant’s booth featured curved lines, mimicking its signature product. Double-sided banners on the top of the structure featured its new BeanBoozled flavors, Liver and Onions/Cappuccino and Old Bandage/Pomegranate.

“One of the intentions of the booth is to draw people in. So with the curve shape and open design, the lack of hard edges, it makes it very approachable,” says Rob Swaigen, vp of global marketing.

One of the signature features was red, plush carpeting, which Swaigen says attendees appreciated because it had been awhile since anyone walked a show floor. The idea was to give them a comfortable place to stand and encourage them to linger in the booth and engage with brand representatives. Agency: MC2, Paramus, NJ.


The Hershey Company

A full product queue ushered attendees into the booth as an introduction to Hershey’s team and experts. The front-loaded display mirrored the company’s intention to highlight concepts relating to the future of retail, particularly at the front of the store, according to Brent Cotten, Hershey’s senior director of global customer and industry affairs.

“We wanted to showcase our full range of capabilities and innovation for our retail partners,” says Cotten. “[The booth] includes different stations that showcase The Hershey Company’s expertise in consumer insights, category management, product innovation and seasonal execution.”

The booth was anchored by faux brick pillars that called back to the original Hershey factory and reinforced the brand’s heritage. Instead of relying on product beauty shots to generate visual interest, Hershey used graphic imagery of facts and figures that relayed consumer insights and analytics. Two playfully themed meeting rooms, one for Kit Kat and one for Reese’s, did show off products. Agency: MC2, Paramus, NJ.

sweets and snacks 2021 Hershey booth 4

A Kit Kat-themed conference room showcased products and offered a private space for meetings.


Ferrero USA at Sweets & Snacks Expo 2021

The booth for Ferrero, whose brands include Butterfinger, Nutella, and Tic Tac, featured oversized screens to show images of products as well as brand facts.

Ferrero USA

“Extra plushy carpet” was also a welcome amenity at the Ferrero booth, according to Jackie Galvin, trade show manager for Ferrero North America. The overall design used huge screens to show images of products as well as brand facts. The footprint also included a “Ferrero Café” with high-top seating and comfortable meeting areas.

“The concept of our booth at Sweets & Snacks Expo is big and bold but still premium,” Galvin says. “The dynamic images and facts on the giant screens convey movement and activity to the crowd in the aisles, and we love the homey feel within the booth.” Agency: MSM, Webster, NY.

The Sweets & Snacks Expo will return to Chicago in 2022 and 2023.

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