Washington DC — For the past 10 years, Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc. has been a regular exhibitor at NCA Sweets & Snacks Expo and for the past eight years company Vice-President of Sales & Business Development Ed Seibolt has served on NCA’s Expo Committee.
As Seibolt stepped into the role of committee chairman at the close of this year’s show, Candy & Snack TODAY sat down with him to discuss where the Expo is heading and how the Association is working to make future installments even better.
Candy & Snack TODAY: What initially made you want to get involved with the Expo committee?
Seibolt: I had some interest after attending my first State of the Industry Conference. I got to know some of the NCA team and was immediately impressed with their professionalism, insight and passion for our industry. I approached the Association and said I wanted to get involved and serve as an ambassador for NCA. I started on the State of the Industry committee, and then I was approached about being on the Expo committee as well.
Candy & Snack TODAY: As you step into the role of Expo chairman, what do you see as the most impactful change to the show during your time on the committee?
Seibolt: I feel the show has transformed into that “can’t-miss” industry event for manufacturers, retailers, brokers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Execution of the show logistics has steadily improved, and the attention to detail has been outstanding under the leadership of NCA staff and Barry Rosenbaum, our immediate past Expo chair.
I also see a Sweets & Snacks Expo committee that is dedicated and passionate about continual improvement and not willing to rest on its laurels. There is always room to grow and get better, and we are all marching toward “Best in Class” results.
Candy & Snack TODAY: What can the industry expect at the 2020 show? Are there new features or expansions in the works?
Seibolt: Expo 2019 was a resounding success on many fronts and the plan is to continue that positive momentum going into 2020. The general theme for Expo 2020 is to refresh, contemporize and capitalize on the strong tailwinds of quality attendance, education and innovation. The show is strong, and our challenge is to continue moving forward with fresh ideas and flawless execution to further solidify this marquee industry event.
Candy & Snack TODAY: Year-on-year the Expo is attracting more first time exhibitors. Do you expect this to continue, and how do these entrepreneurs change the dynamic of the show?
Seibolt: We had more than 830 exhibitors in 2019, an increase of 4 percent, with many first time participants. We expect this trend to continue and love the energy, passion and innovation that comes along with it. The entrepreneurial spirit and excitement of these first-time exhibitors does nothing but enhance the show experience for all attendees, and in many cases, fill category voids.
Candy & Snack TODAY: For new companies considering exhibiting, what is the most compelling reason to do so?
Seibolt: There are so many great reasons to exhibit at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. It has evolved into the “must-see” industry event and aligns with our new tagline: “Your year starts here.” More than 90 percent of the candy buying market and more than 75 percent of the snack buying market attend the show. Candy and snack makers can’t afford to ignore the sheer buying power of our attendees, especially if they have new products to launch or new marketing priorities.
On top of that, no show out there today is delivering such a high level of insights relative to candy and snacks. Our presenters delivered invaluable content to more than 2,600 audience members in education sessions covering topics including merchandising, ecommerce, flavor trends, technology and innovation.
Innovation remains paramount to the show’s success and always draws considerable interest, hence the nearly 360 entries in the Most Innovative Product Awards and an equal number in the New Product Showcase. From a brand spotting perspective, the Expo is the best place to get a read on what consumers want in candy and snacks today and predict what they will be looking for in the future.
Finally, there is not a better venue for networking than the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Small, medium and large companies have an audience of enthusiastic buyers/retail customers and a wonderful opportunity to meet, prospect, network and showcase their products and programs.
Candy & Snack TODAY: What was the reaction to the revamped Destination Retail and how do special features like that and the Discovery Theater enhance the Expo?
Seibolt: Both experiences were positive with strong engagement. Destination Retail had more than 2,300 visits and the Discovery Theater attracted considerable traffic flow. Attention-getters that demonstrate real-world ideas and solutions that are applicable to our businesses contribute to the energy and excitement of the show and add to that pageantry that makes it so special. We can do even more and look forward to sharing some of those ideas in the future. Creativity and innovation are the lifeblood of our show.
Candy & Snack TODAY: What makes the Expo such a valuable asset for the industry?
Seibolt: It is the one time a year to participate in a celebratory atmosphere in our wonderful, unique and proud industry with all the excitement that comes along with it. Most walk away energized, while at the same time conducting business with some of the most professional, respected thought leaders in the industry. It is an investment and commitment that has always paid dividends with contacts and ultimately incremental business.
Candy & Snack TODAY: While the show is consistently growing, how do you improve moving forward?
Seibolt: We need to focus on developing new activities and experiences to help attendees and exhibitors forge even deeper connections and offer the right insights and solutions to help drive candy and snack category growth. It’s time to roll up our sleeves, set the bar high and continue to move at breakneck speed toward continuous improvement, high energy, creativity, innovation and flawless execution to satisfy all attendees. If we can accomplish this, the experience will keep them coming back and sustain show strength! C&ST