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NCA Improves Expo Product Awards, Adds Categories

March 27, 2014
by Candy & Snack TODAY

Washington — A gum and mints category and a Best in Show recognition have been added to the NCA’s Most Innovative New Product Awards, which are voted on and given out during the Sweets & Snacks Expo.

In addition, the judging process is being enhanced this year by weighting the criteria the panel uses to gauge products. Jenn Ellek, NCA director of trade communications and marketing, explains this will be based on how valuable a certain attribute is to the overall item, giving for example that taste will factor in more than product appearance.

Taste, innovation and saleability (got-to-market potential) will carry 75 percent of the weight for an item, according to Ellek. The other criteria are value, packaging and appearance of product.

The categories — which are chocolate, non-chocolate, novelty/licensed, gourmet/premium, seasonal, salty snacks, sweet snacks and savory snacks — will be joined by a gum and mints category. In previous years, gums and mints were judged with non-chocolate items, but since the segment covers so many products, some items were being overlooked, according to Ellek.

“Non-chocolate is a really popular category and while a lot of gum and mint products made it to the final round, it was tough to stand up against a really innovative gummi or chewy candy,” she explains. “We felt gum and mints should have their own category so those products can shine a little more.”

Ellek says the Best in Show award will be determined by the number of scans an item gets during the first day of the show. However, to be considered for the prize, products must be within the top ten items for their respective categories as determined by the judging panel.

“So in some instance, the product with the most votes might not have made the panel’s top ten, so we will keep going down the list of popular votes until one with the most votes matches up with the panel’s top ten,” Ellek adds.

Also new this year, companies will receive feedback from the judging panel on every product submitted. Companies whose products are nominated will receive special awards to display on their booths, alerting attendees of the distinction.

Login to the Sweets & Snacks Expo Exhibitor Service center,, to submit a product. The winners will be announced during the morning keynote session on Wednesday, May 21.

Any product introduced since the 2013 Expo is eligible, although packaging changes and items from non-exhibitors will not be considered, according to the Association.

Submissions will be narrowed down to five items in each category by a panel comprised of retailers, wholesalers, trade media and food industry experts. Go to to see who will be judging products and find out more about their qualifications.  

For more details on submission requirements, visit

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