Talk about a sugar rush. After attending the annual Sweets & Snack Expo, held at McCormick Place May 24-26, Illinois Meetings + Events shares all the goodies from the expo floor. Here’s a look at what’s trending in healthy snacks for meetings (or the office) as well as decadent gifts and branded treats that make great client takeaways.
Although candy makes up a large part of the exhibitors every year, not everything at the expo is just for satisfying a sweet tooth. Wholesome snacks are a popular offering, too, and can cater to the more health-conscious in the group.
Munk Pack is a portable, ready-to-eat oatmeal fruit squeeze that you can keep stocked in the work kitchen or stored in the car for a busy commute. Each handheld option—in flavors like raspberry coconut and peach chia vanilla—is gluten-free, vegan and made with non-GMO whole grains. munkpack.com
This is not your dad’s dried beef. Instead, the Illinois brand Think Jerky has partnered with award-winning chefs (like Chicago’s own Gale Gand, former executive pastry chef at Tru) to create innovative and healthful flavors like ginger orange beef jerky and Sriracha honey turkey jerky. Each protein-packed treat comes from grass-fed, free-range animals with no added hormones or antibiotics and are also clear of nitrates and gluten. “At 100 calories, 16 grams of protein and only 6 grams of carbs, Think Jerky is the perfect mid-day snacking fuel for health conscious attendees,” says CEO Ricky Hirsch.
When you’re in close quarters at a meeting or event, especially when there’s coffee, no one wants to be worrying about fresh breath. Keep a few bowls of Simply Gum near food stations to assuage guests and keep the conversations rolling. This 100-percent-natural gum comes in classic flavors like mint and cinnamon as well as more unique options like ginger and fennel licorice.
Perfectly Packaged Gifts
Who doesn’t love sugar? Especially when it comes packaged in artisan boxes. These candy vendors not only provide tasty treats, but also focus on the presentation so you can easily wrap up client gifts with just a few simple orders.
Caramels were a big trend at the 2016 expo with more than a few brands to chew on. First is Annie B’s, who whips up batches of rich flavors like butter rum, chocolate raspberry and amaretto, and packages them together in options ranging from a polka dot bag, signature tote, glass canister or wooden box (one of Oprah’s favorites). Also available are popcorn tins and caramel apple kits.
Lovely Candy Company, based in Algonquin, also makes fresh batches of caramels in flavors like bananas foster, caramel apple and pumpkin spice (all made with hormone-free milk). The husband-and-wife team also sources honey chocolate truffles, fudge rolls, vegan fruit chews and gluten-free licorice. Order your choice of three flavors to be wrapped up in a gift box or buy a 12-count gift bag set with gold foil adhesive seals.
“Because our candies are delicious, premium, unique and special, when they are given as a gift, it tells people how much you value the relationship,” says Brian Heiser, VP marketing and product development. There is also a chance to play up the word ‘lovely’ with a message on the gift box. “‘Lovely Candies for a Lovely Client’ or ‘We Value Our Lovely Partnership,’” are just some examples, says Heiser.
Chocoholics will also love TCHO, one of the only U.S. confectioners crafting chocolates from scratch by sourcing their own cacao beans and processing at their California-based plant. Individual chocolates come in creative flavors like mint chip gelato, and gift items come in specialty packaging designed by local artists. Choose from a seasonal or a San Francisco series of decorative tubs and boxes. TCHO even offers a “chocolate and wine pairing party” in a box for added fun.
Though you might not work at a chocolate factory, you can still put your company stamp (or that of your client) on a number of sweet treats that can be edible décor at special events or the perfect way to be remembered in gift bags.
Vintage Confections is one such sweet option. The Clarendon Hills-based company offers customizable lollipops allowing you to pick your color scheme and provide a photo, logo or text to be infused into each piece of candy. They come in all shapes, sizes and flavors, too. Order online or check out their retail store. “The product is as unique as the person designing it wants it to be,” says CEO Heather Kelly. “It’s a lollipop for sure, but ultimately the customer decides what it says or looks like inside.”