Well it happened. We got word this week that the 2020 Private Label Manufacturers Association Show has been moved to a virtual format.

The in-person version of the event had been slated to be held in Illinois Nov. 15-17, but it has officially been moved online and rescheduled for Feb. 1-5, 2021. 

It’s the last one. The last 2020 event Candy Industry had planned to cover in person this year. So now we look to 2021. 

Back in March, when COVID-19 first started to have a major impact on the industry, I wrote about how long it might linger. While at the time I still hoped we would attend the May 2020 Sweets and Snacks Expo in person, I also was starting to realize that it might not happen.

In that column I wrote:

“This week, President Donald Trump told the country that he doesn’t expect us to get past all of this until July or August.

July? Or August? We’re going to be enduring this until late summer? How can that be?”

Well, here we are. August 26. Most of us grab a face mask before we leave the house. No major industry events are scheduled in-person for the rest of 2020. And there have been 5.7 million total cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with 176,617 deaths, according to the CDC

While some Americans have resumed flying, most business trips still aren’t happening. Many schools are doing virtual learning, while the ones that are open mostly have an abbreviated classroom schedule. And everyone seems to have learned to Zoom.

Many are looking to a vaccine to bring an end to all this, but the timeline remains uncertain. And the CDC just recently issued an ominous outlook for fall, according to CNN

“A top federal health official is issuing a dire warning: Follow recommended coronavirus measures or risk having the worst fall in U.S. public health history.

‘For your country right now and for the war that we're in against Covid, I'm asking you to do four simple things: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and be smart about crowds,’ said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘I'm not asking some of America to do it," he told WebMD. ‘We all gotta do it.’

Without following the recommendations, this could be, 'the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we've ever had,' he said."

The worst fall we’ve ever had. 

That’s definitely dire, and we can only hope, overly pessimistic.

From a sales perspective, the entire confectionery industry will be watching Halloween candy sales closely in the coming months, while also trying to prepare for winter holidays that may look dramatically different than years past. 

If Halloween candy proves to be pandemic proof, it will no doubt offer a glimpse of hope for the confectionery industry during these tumultuous times, as well as a roadmap for continuing to navigate the pandemic.

From an events perspective, Candy Industry turns next to ISM in Germany, slated for Jan. 31-Feb. 3. While it’s still five months away, whether or not U.S.-based Candy Industry staff will even be allowed into Germany by then remains questionable. The European Union still has a ban on Americans, and it’s not clear when that may be lifted.

It’s striking to me that this all happened in 2020 — the year so often prophesied about and looked to as a vision for hope on the horizon. And when we finally got there, when we finally made it to 2020, the year itself ended up being nothing like anyone could have imagined.