New Lemonhead Guy, Mega M&M's: Get a Look Inside the Annual Candy Show

Can the Industry Maintain its Momentum?

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The annual Sweets & Snacks Expo is a rite of spring in Chicago as reliable as the sailboats returning to Lake Michigan. Hundreds of candy marketers and wholesalers from across the world faithfully converge at McCormick Place convention center for a three-day show that seems to grow bigger each year.

As this year's event began on Tuesday, everyone had a reason to have a little pep in their step, and not just because of the sugary free samples. It's because the $33.6 billion confectionery industry continues to outperform.

Sales jumped 2.3% last year, which is more than the 1.6% gain posted by all consumer packaged goods, said Larry Levin, a packaged-goods expert and exec VP at research firm IRI Worldwide, at the expo's kickoff presentation. Snacks, meanwhile, grew 4.5%, he added. "That's really fantastic in a time when consumers are tested for how much money they can spend," he said.

But the competition remains fierce within the industry, as marketers large and small seek limited shelf space at retailers. A record 650 exhibitors are showing off their products this week, including giants such as Hershey and Mars Inc. as well as hundreds of smaller marketers hoping to catch their first big break.

Ad Age took a tour of the convention hall on Tuesday. In the video above are just a few of the new products that caught our eye.

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