June 8, 2023

Top Three Takeaways from the Sweets & Snacks Expo 2023

In a contracting economy, industry leaders must prioritize efficiency and automation to remain competitive. How can manufacturers position themselves for success in an ever-evolving market?

A few weeks ago, the food and beverage industry gathered in Chicago, Illinois, at the highly anticipated Sweets & Snacks Expo 2023 to showcase the latest products and discuss emerging trends.

As the event concluded, three key takeaways emerged, providing valuable insights into the industry’s current landscape and its future direction.

In this blog post, we will delve into these takeaways and explore their significance for manufacturers, consumers, and the overall market.

Takeaway 1: Efficiency and Automation are Key in Challenging Economic Times 

The first takeaway from the Sweets & Snacks Expo highlights the economic contraction in the food and beverage sector over the last seven months.

To thrive in these challenging times, manufacturers must focus on improving efficiency and maximizing uptime with existing equipment.

This underscores the importance of things like digitalization and workflow automation, which can streamline operations, reduce costs, and increase productivity. By harnessing innovative technologies, food and beverage manufacturers can navigate economic fluctuations while maintaining efficiency and keeping costs low.

As part of the digital transformation, manufacturers are introducing solutions for operational performance management (OPM) — systems that capture key, real-time data measures from the plant floor, analyze the data, and provide actionable intelligence in the form of dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs) for performance improvement. 

Takeaway 2: The Demand for Higher-Quality Ingredients 

Another noteworthy trend observed at the Expo was the growing demand for higher-quality ingredients. Today’s consumers continue to prioritize healthier and more sustainable options, such as low-sugar, high-protein, and responsibly sourced ingredients.

However, there is a limit to how much more consumers are willing to pay for these upgraded ingredients. This presents a delicate balancing act for manufacturers, who must incorporate higher-cost components into their products without significantly increasing prices for their customers. 

To counteract the increase in materials costs, companies can reduce their overall manufacturing costs by focusing on operational efficiency and performance management. To help them tackle these tighter margins, food and beverage manufacturers are embracing digital tools designed to help them track KPIs in manufacturing and utilize key metrics like overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) to monitor and improve performance.  

OEE as a KPI provides a critical measure of a plant’s effectiveness by consolidating information on availability, performance, and quality into a single indicator. With OEE, manufacturers get real-time visibility into production line performance, helping them drive continuous improvement, achieve efficiency gains, and lower operating costs. 

Takeaway 3: How an OPM Solution Complements a Just-in-Time Manufacturing Strategy 

The third takeaway highlights the critical role of Just-in-Time (JIT) manufacturing in lean operations, cost reduction, and maintaining a competitive edge. JIT enables manufacturers to pay increased attention to scheduling, minimizing downtime during product line switches, allowing for increased efficiency and responsiveness.

Here again, a digital OPM solution that provides key metrics like OEE can significantly help improve plant performance by highlighting problem areas and identifying opportunities for improvement.

By avoiding excess inventory and unnecessary warehousing expenses, companies can keep costs down and respond quickly when it comes to bringing new flavors and products to market. This strategic approach not only optimizes operations but also enhances the manufacturer’s ability to cater to evolving consumer preferences. 


This year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo provided a comprehensive overview of challenges facing the food and beverage industry, highlighting important takeaways for industry professionals and consumers alike. 

In a contracting economy, manufacturers must prioritize efficiency and automation to remain competitive. Furthermore, the demand for more expensive ingredients presents both challenges and opportunities, with OPM solutions like Ekho OPM playing a crucial role in balancing performance and cost. Finally, embracing Just-in-Time manufacturing offers a significant competitive advantage by reducing costs and enabling swift product innovation. 

By understanding and implementing these takeaways, manufacturers can position themselves for success in an ever-evolving market, while delivering the quality and variety that consumers crave. 

Want to learn more about how Ekho OPM helps you keep costs down and respond quickly to ever-changing customer needs? Get a demo. 

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