2023 Panelists Coming Soon!

We’ve asked our Awards Evaluation Panel to share how innovation helps to drive their businesses…

Jan Nichols

Jan Nichols

Vice President of Floral and Home; Hy-Vee

At Hy-Vee, we are always innovating and finding new ways to excite our customers, especially in the candy category, and the Sweets & Snacks Expo helps us stay ahead of the curve. We continuously seek new and exciting products that will prompt impulse buys. Most importantly, we’ve recently adapted our merchandising strategy to meet the shopping behaviors of our digital customers, whether they shop through our e-commerce grocery platform, Hy-Vee Aisles Online, or use our in-store mobile payment technology, Hy-Vee Scan & Go.

Kayla Verney

Kayla Verney

Category Merchant; BJ’s Wholesale Club

Innovation helps drive my business by allowing me to bring new exciting trends and items to my members. Thanks to what I find at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, product innovation provides an extension to our core items and a “treasure hunt” experience in club.

Jenny Schossow

Merchandising Director – Convenience Food; Walmart

Innovation is a key pillar to our success at Walmart as we strive to surprise and delight the consumer with every checkout experience.

Deb Sammon

Deb Sammon

Category Growth Manager; Coborn’s

The innovation we find at the Sweets & Snacks Expo helps us identify new opportunities for growth with our existing customers and find ways to attract new customers.

Jennifer Dilts

Sr. Director of Merchandising; Dollar General

The innovation that we find at the Sweets & Snacks Expo drives trial and brings new consumers to our category, which is essential for our continued growth

Grant Demers

Vice President of Sales, Mass & Club; McLane Company

Filtered through a logistics lens, innovation helps drive improvements in efficiency, accuracy, food/teammate/driver safety, and product flow throughout the supply chain.

Meredith Stringer

Meredith Stringer

CM – Bulk, Coffee, Candy; The Fresh Market

Innovation adds elements of surprise and delight that create a positive customer experience. Continued focus on innovative items and assortments drives sales and keeps customers dedicated and engaged.

Susan Grassey

Susan Grassey

Category Manager – Candy & Seasonal General Merchandise; Harris Teeter

The new item innovation we discover at the Sweets & Snacks Expo helps create excitement in the candy category. 

Todd Gean

Todd Gean

Category Manager – Candy; Hy-Vee

The innovation found at the Sweets & Snacks Expo helps us create excitement in our category and stay on trend.

Yoshie Fujii

Merchandising Director – Seasonal Candy; Walmart

The Sweets & Snacks Expo helps us explore new items, understand new trends and find innovation to bring our customers excitement.

Alyssa Snyr

Category Manager – Candy & Snacks; S. Abraham & Sons Inc.

Innovation is key to showing we are in front of changes, rather than following behind. With some of the big players putting pauses on innovation, we have been able to give more opportunities to some lesser-known vendors and grow new and exciting brands.

Jeff Rubin

President & CEO; IT’SUGAR

Innovation and “newness” is everything. It is the largest contributor to our year-over-year same store growth, and the Sweets & Snacks Expo helps us make that happen!

Marcus Anderson

Category Manager – Snacks, Snack Bars & Nuts; Walgreens

The innovation we find at the Sweets & Snacks Expo drives excitement in the category and drives trial. People love to talk about the new flavor of potato chip or new type of chocolate bar.

Holly Adrien

Manager – Natural & Organic Strategy & Innovation; The Kroger Co.

Innovation is an important part of our business at The Kroger Co as we aim to ensure our customers are able to find all products they are looking for! The Sweets & Snacks Expo helps us meet our innovation goals every time. 

Stephanie Panzetta

Category Manager – Candy & Snacks; Weis Markets

The innovation I find at the Sweets & Snacks Expo helps drive incremental purchases by exciting our customers with the opportunity to try something new.

Mark Jechura

Merchandising Director – Basic Candy; Walmart, Inc

I attend the Sweets & Snacks Expo to see the latest and greatest innovation, which is essential for building sustainable category growth, incentivizing incremental purchases and maintaining customer interest and relevance.

Mike Keller

Category Manager, Circle K – Northern Tier

The innovation we find at the Sweets & Snacks Expo creates excitement for our consumers as they try new products and continue to drive sales growth.

Lindy Smith

Lindy Smith

Senior Director – Category Management; Maverik

The innovation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo keeps customers excited, and thanks to the show, they know they can always find these new items at their favorite Maverik.

Chris Lindstedt

Chris Lindstedt

AVP – Merchandising; IT’SUGAR

Innovation is what we live for and a vital key to our success! We are always trying to be ahead of the next trends and push ourselves to figure out what those are. Ultimately, we want to be the ones to set the pace and deliver the innovation to the rest of the industry.

Ashley Borden

Director of Merchandise; Murphy USA

With the ever-changing customer profile, innovation is imperative across category assortments.  The customers want to be at the forefront of any new trend.  It is our job to be there for them.

Sarah Bibbs

Sarah Bibbs

Senior Director of Merchandising; Core-Mark/Eby-Brown

Innovation is necessary to grow the categories, draw in new consumers and provide an opportunity for incremental sales

Kathy Douglas

DMM/Director of Merchandise North America; Paradies Lagardère

We have trend savvy customers in the airport channel who expect to see newness and innovation in our selections. The Sweets & Snacks Expo helps us test not only new products but also new presentation and merchandising to enhance the customer experience in our shops. 

Robin Gutridge

Senior Category Manager; Raley’s

Innovation keeps the manufacturer and retailer relevant to the consumer and drives incremental growth. The new product launches we find at the Sweets & Snacks Expo are the spark that keeps everyone engaged and searching for more.

Peter Kempton

Peter Kempton

Category Manager; Travel Centers of America

The innovation we discover at the Sweets & Snacks Expo is a great way to drive trial while tying in core business purchases.

Emily Gordon

Emily Gordon

Senior Category Manager – Take Home & Seasonal Candy; Walgreens

Innovation brings life into the category and supports the classics with a fun and fresh option, especially for our younger consumers. It’s a great testing playground to see what just could be the next big idea.

Lisa Ham

Director of Merchandising & Space Planning; Yesway

Innovation is a key player in our business, and the Sweets & Snacks Expo helps us meet our innovation goals. Customers are always looking for the next best thing, whether that’s in technology, foodservice or candy & snacks. Ensuring you are up to date with the latest innovations and trends lets customers know they can count on your business should they be in the mood to try something new. 

Mayra Falcon Fernandez

Mayra Falcon Fernandez

Category Manager – Salty and Alternative Snacks; Murphy USA

Innovation helps us grow and stay ahead of the market, and what we find at the show helps us capture the interest and attention of our regular or new costumers.

Tabitha Sewell

Tabitha Sewell

Director, Category Management; KeHE Distributors

KeHE’s Category Management team is constantly foraging for new brands and products to stay ahead of trends and keep our assortment exciting for our retailers and customers.

Jim Hachtel

Jim Hachtel

Director of Category Management; Core-Mark/Eby-Brown

Innovation keeps the candy and snack categories fresh and interesting to consumers, and we can drive constant growth in our retailers’ stores by keeping the innovation pipeline filled with exciting new items that consumers are demanding.

Brian Freel

Category Director; Family Dollar

Innovation is key to driving sustainable growth for the category, and the Sweets & Snacks Expo helps bring new opportunities for innovation to our customers.