>For a full list of how confectionery industry events are being impacted by the coronavirus, click here.

As of today, March 17, the Sweets and Snacks Expo is still proceeding as planned. However, the NCA is now offering a full refund on badge fees for anyone whose plans change as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

John Downs, NCA President and CEO, said in a letter to members that they remain hopeful about holding the event, which is slated for May 18-21 at McCormick Place in Chicago. 

“However, we are approaching the decision cautiously and thoughtfully, taking care to balance the business needs of our stakeholders with our shared responsibility as a nation to promote health and safety at this extremely sensitive time,” he wrote.

And if anyone needs to cancel their plans to attend the Expo, they will receive a full refund for badge fees as long as they cancel by May 1. To request a refund, attendees just need to complete this form.

Show management working with exhibitors on case-by-case basis

As for exhibitors, Sweets & Snacks Expo show management said it is evaluating on a case-by-case basis the participation of exhibiting companies from countries for which CDC has issued a travel guidance related to COVID-19. 

“In certain instances these international exhibitors are staffed by U.S.-based personnel; in other instances, we are making arrangements to cancel their 2020 participation and welcome them back to Sweets & Snacks Expo in 2021,” the NCA said. “We are giving each of these unique cases careful consideration in the interest of protecting the health and safety of everyone who attends the show."

Chicago and Illinois timelines currently allow for show

On March 12 the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago together mandated the cancellation of large-scale events in the next 30 days and recommended the cancellation/postponement of public and community events until May 1. While on March 15, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued further guidance, encouraging nationwide social distancing and recommending against gatherings of 50 or more people for the “next eight weeks.”

“If the Sweets & Snacks Expo were taking place in March or April, we would have no choice but to cancel. But as the show is still outside of the 60 day window, we are not cancelling at this time,” the NCA said. “Our goal is to provide a safe and vibrant venue for professionals throughout the candy and snack industries to connect with one another and resume the normal business of buying and selling America’s most beloved treats and snacks. We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation every day, just as you are. We will also continue to be in touch with the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, whose collective actions in the coming days are likely to impact our decision making.”

Downs said the health and safety of the confectionery community remains a priority, but they have heard from members of the Sweets & Snacks Expo community that they want the NCA to make pragmatic business decisions as well. 

“We know that many of our exhibitors and trade customers rely on the show for their successful business operations, and we do not take our role in facilitating that lightly,” Downs explains. “We’re also sensitive to the realities of travel planning, shipping and staffing at this time. Attendee and exhibitor interest in the Sweets & Snacks Expo remains strong, despite the unpredictability we’re all facing — a testament to the strong community we have built together at the show over 23 years.” 

NCA continues to update its COVID-19 web page

The NCA also is continuing to update its COVID-19 page on SweetsAndSnacks.com with important information as it becomes available

“We will continue to be in touch with the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, whose collective actions in the days ahead are likely to impact our decision making about Expo” Downs said. “I encourage you to visit our website and sign up for updates so that you can stay abreast of changes in real time. You will hear from me again regarding our thinking as the days pass and this situation unfolds.”

The NCA also said that McCormick is taking steps to ensure everyone’s safety. 

Specifically, McCormick Place is implementing enhanced cleaning and safety protocols throughout public spaces, including:

  • Increased cleaning of restrooms and high-touch areas, such as handrails, info desks, door handles, furniture, etc., using a hospital-grade disinfectant

  • Increased hand sanitizer stations

  • Staff training on how to recognize possible symptoms of coronavirus

  • Increased air intake/air change rate during event hours

  • Medical care will be readily accessible to address immediate health concerns

NCA embracing telework for its staff

In the letter, Downs also said that like most U.S. businesses with the ability to promote telework, the NCA is embracing a remote work policy for NCA staff. 

“Our team will continue to work hard to service the needs of our member companies and our stakeholders,” he said. “We are available to answer questions and provide help and support to you as necessary. Do not hesitate to reach out to me or any member of the team.”

He also offered some words of encouragement, support and thanks to everyone across the supply chain. 

“The food manufacturing community at large, as well as our retailers, suppliers and brokers, are facing a set of circumstances unlike anything we have ever seen before. But as we have seen throughout the last few days, a functioning food supply chain is critical to our economy and our way of life,” he said. “The work you do will help see our nation through these trying times. I am proud to be part of this industry. Thank you for your support and patience as we move forward.” 

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