Sweets & Snacks Expo Honors 2021 Most Innovative New Products

BranchOut's Banana Bites took home the Small Business Innovator award, while Nerds Gummy Clusters by Ferrera was recognized as Best in Show.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Sweets & Snacks Expo (SSE) marked the first trade show to be held in Indianapolis in 2021 and is the first food industry trade show in more than year.

Hosted by the National Confectioners Association, SSE is the premier trade show for the candy and snack categories and offers attendees the opportunity to discover new confectionery and snack products, actionable insights and unparalleled access to industry and retail personnel. 

"There's a lot of excitement and pent-up demand for the in-person show this year. With two years of innovation and new products, the resilient treating and snacking categories will be on full display at the 2021 Sweets & Snacks Expo," NCA President and CEO John Downs said. "We are excited to be working with our partners in the city of Indianapolis to provide the 8,000 retailers, manufacturers, brokers and suppliers in attendance with the opportunity to find inspiration, take part in educational sessions and make meaningful connections with those in the industry they have missed over the past year to 18 months."

By the numbers, the 2021 Sweets & Snacks Expo featured:

  • 8,000 attendees
  • 450-plus exhibitors
  • 2,890-plus retail attendees
  • 1,750-plus banners across all classes of trade
  • More than 3 acres of candy and snack innovation

In traditional form, the Most Innovative New Product Awards show kicked off the expo. These highly competitive awards recognize the most innovative candy and snack products and companies for their achievements and new products introduced to the market over the past two years.

The submitted products were judged by retail and category thought leaders from leading retailers like Costco, Walgreen's and 7-Eleven. The awards attracted more than 300 entries and recognized 55 products in 11 categories as well as Best In Show and Small Business Innovator, which recognize the judges' favorite product and an up-and-coming innovative company, respectively.

The 2021 winners of the Most Innovative New Products Awards are:

  • Chocolate: The Hershey Company – Reese's Big Cup with Pretzels
  • Non-chocolate: Mederer U.S.A. Inc. – efrutti Bakery Shoppe Bag
  • Gum & mints: Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc. – Mentos Gum Paperboard Bottle
  • Salty snacks: Wonderful Pistachios – Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Sea Salt & Vinegar
  • Sweet snacks: TruFru LLC – Nature's Strawberries Hyper-Chilled Frozen Fresh in White Chocolate & Milk Chocolate
  • Meat snacks: Pure Jerky Co – Tripi's Sweet Spicy Original
  • Savory snacks: Indiana Import LLC – Torti Max
  • Novelty/licensed – candy & snacks: Pez Candy Inc. – Harry Potter Back Pack Clips with Mystery Flavor PEZ Candy
  • Seasonal – candy & snacks: Ferrara Candy Co. – Nerds Candy Corn
  • Gourmet/premium – candy: TruFru LLC – Nature's Pineapple Pina Colada Hyper-Chilled Fresh and Immersed in White Chocolate and Coconut
  • Gourmet/premium – snacks: Crack Corn – The Original Ultra-Premium Puff Corn
  • Small Business Innovator: BranchOut – Banana Bites
  • Best in Show: Ferrara Candy Co. – Nerds Gummy Clusters 

"The Most Innovative New Product Awards continue to highlight the innovation that pushes our industry forward, and we celebrate the creativity that makes the confectionery and snack categories shine," said Downs. "For many consumers, candy and snacks played a central role over the past 18 months in making ordinary moments a little more special, and these new products will make getting back to the things that we love to do this summer even more fun."

The Sweets & Snacks Expo also awarded multiple accolades in celebration of suppliers, brokers, manufacturers and retail partners. Among the awards were:

The Ruby Award for Supplier Innovation is given annually to recognize a breakthrough innovation from the supplier member community that advances the confectionery industry and significantly improves the ability of confectioners to manufacture, distribute, market and/or sell chocolate and candy. A panel of NCA manufacturing member companies reviews the applications and selects the award recipient each year.

For the first time in the award’s history, this year the award was presented to two winners:

  • Mantrose-Haeuser Co. Inc., MantroShield: The concept delivers the sour taste impact of organic acids, with enough protection to allow its use in confectionery, but without the negative aspects of common encapsulation processes.
  • Schubert Additive Solutions, Partbox: With Partbox, spare parts can be provided to companies in the confectionery industry much faster than before. Partbox uses 3D printing technology to produce spare parts directly inside factories. Through the optimized process, companies can save time and money in the ordering process of spare parts.

Doug Boes of Shankman & Associates received the Golden Candy Dish Award, which is presented to a broker industry member who has performed above and beyond the call of business to promote and grow the confectionery industry. The individual is selected based on the candidate's leadership skills and ability to build relationships and cultivate new business opportunities with confectionery manufacturers. This year, NCA also focused on their versatility and perseverance through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Katherine Phegley of Brown & Haley received the Silver Candy Dish Award, which is presented to a leader in sales, marketing, management or another key role in confectionery manufacturing who has made significant contributions to growing the confectionery category. The individual is selected based on the candidate's leadership skills and ability to build relationships and cultivate new business opportunities with brokers. This year, NCA also focused on their versatility and perseverance through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The NCA also presented the first-ever Woman of Influence Award to Libby Taylor. The award highlights a recipient who has performed above and beyond the call of duty in service of the industry. The recipient of this award is selected by NCA's Women’s Leadership Group. 

Taylor, who previously served as vice president of Membership, joined the association in 1993 and pioneered NCA's signature events, including the Sweets & Snacks Expo launch in 1997. 

The 2021 Sweets & Snacks Expo took place June 23-25 at the Indiana Convention Center. The 2022 expo is set to take place May 24-26 at Chicago's McCormick Place.

Based in Washington, D.C., the National Confectioners Association is the trade organization that promotes the unique role of chocolate, candy, gum and mints in a happy, balanced lifestyle and the companies that make these special treats through advocacy and regulatory guidance, communications, industry insights and retail and supply chain engagement.