There’s something magical about seeing Chicago’s McCormick Place transform into Candy Land for the annual Sweets & Snacks Expo, hosted May 23-25 by the National Confectioners Association.
But this year was special, for a couple reasons. First, attendance reached an all-time high for the second year in a row, the NCA said. More than 18,000 visitors from 90 countries perused the two exhibition halls. Exhibitor participation grew by 6 percent, covering four acres.
“There was an amazing energy on the exhibit floor this year as the Sweets & Snacks Expo continues to be the premier, must-attend event in the confectionery and snack business,” said John Downs, president and ceo of NCA. “Expo was the perfect venue to introduce the chocolate and candy industry’s recent leadership commitment to our retail and wholesale customers.”
Second, the NCA and eight major manufacturers – Mars Chocolate, Wrigley, Nestle, Lindt, Russell Stover, Ghirardelli, Ferrero and Ferrara Candy Co. – had a chance to celebrate their collaboration with Partnership for a Healthier America, founded in 2010 in conjunction with the Let’s Move campaign.
After a two-year conversation directly involving the companies’ ceos, the group has committed to producing half of their individually-wrapped products with 200 calories or fewer by 2022. Calorie information will be printed on the front of 90 percent of best-selling treats made by those companies. Additionally, the research firm Hudson Institute will be responsible for independent, third-party progress reporting.
Chris Gindlesperger, NCA’s v.p. of public affairs and communications, said the partnership represents about half of the U.S. candy market.
“It’s a really impressive moment when you look at the size and the scope of what’s going on the in the industry right now,” he said at a May 23 media breakfast.
Gindlesperger noted the 200-calorie threshold was derived from a World Health Organization guideline suggesting added sugars should comprise just 10 percent of a consumer’s daily sugar intake. If 2,000 calories is considered the average daily total intake, then 10 percent is 200.
Still, Gindlesperger emphasized that Americans consume candy 2-3 times a week, averaging about 40 calories a day.
“Everybody knows that chocolate and candy are treats,” he says. “Now, what these companies are doing is redoubling their efforts to reinforce that with consumers.”
Two weeks before the NCA, PHA and participating manufacturers announced their plans, Hershey outlined similar commitments to choice and transparency. That’s not an accident, Gindlesperger said. He noted Hershey was involved in the conversation, but the Hershey, Pa.-based manufacturer opted to take on a “company-specific” initiative.
Still, with Hershey pursuing similar goals, it means about 85 percent of the U.S. market is involved, Gindlesperger said.
“We love how we’re all directionally aligned,” he said.
Check out more from Sweets & Snacks here.