Sweets and Snacks Expo 2011 promises to be full of treats.

By Crystal Lindell

Associate Editor

Reading e-mails about candy, seeing pictures of candy and doing phone interviews about candy is sweet and all, but candy, like a boyfriend, is best enjoyed in person. That’s why I’m positively giddy about the upcoming Sweets and Snacks Expo, May 24-26, at McCormick Place in Chicago.

The National Confectioners Association expects nearly 500 companies will be showcasing their confectionery and snack products during the Expo, and visions of sugar plums already are dancing in my head.

Aside from all that in-person candy, I’m also genuinely looking forward to meeting the industry insiders who will no doubt be among the more than “14,000 qualified confectionery and snack professionals” slated to attend.

I’ve been in contact with many of you since starting here, and finally getting to shake your hands will be a treat. I’ll be making the rounds myself, but our magazine also is going to have larger booth this year, and we’d love for you to stop by and visit!

Editor-in-Chief Bernie Pacyniak and I will be on hand, and he’s particularly excited that we’re going to feature a chocolate kettle at our booth. The Godiva-sponsored creation is, of course, tied to our annual Kettle Awards, May 25, which will be held at the Union League of Chicago. The event has been described as the “Oscars” of the candy world, which obviously means it’s where all the cool people will be on Wednesday night.

For those who simply cannot wait to get a taste of the show, we have a extensive nine-page preview section in this issue, which spotlights new products set to debut at the Expo.

You can blame my political science bachelor’s degree for the fact that I’m particularly excited about the PEZ Presidents of the United States, which feature (maybe obviously?) presidents’ heads on top of PEZ dispensers. I get the urge to write a 10-page report about the foundations of democracy just thinking about them.

Meanwhile, I’m guessing the Gamer Grub by Gamer Grub - a “delicious performance snack packed with essential vitamins and neurotransmitters to keep you focused and quick” - will be just what I need to finally beat Mario Kart on Wii. And, I’m hopeful that the Zips Energy Sunflower Seeds by Morris Products, will finally offer a perfect combination of two of my favorite things - salt and caffeine.

The preview section also features a slew of new products in the category I love most - chocolate. The Dark Chocolate/Italian Chili Pepper by Torn Ranch, Inc., and the Deep Dish Brownies by Sanders have definitely gotten my attention.

You’ll no doubt notice the American Idol theme we used to tie the section together, and I have to thank designer Sarah Zagacki for creating such a fun cover. It makes me want to go to Hollywood just looking at it. Fortunately for me, I get to go somewhere better - Sweets and Snacks Expo, here I come!