Celeb Chef to Be Sweets & Snacks Expo Panelist

Homaro Cantu, chef and owner of moto and iNG restaurants in Chicago, will join the panel of expert judges for the Most Innovative New Product Awards at the 2013 Sweets & Snacks Expo, according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA). The organization’s expo is slated to take place May 21-23 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

A panel of experts consisting of retail customers, food industry celebrities and trend experts will rate more than 210 new products according to packaging, innovation, go-to-market potential and taste, ultimately choosing the top five items across eight categories.

“Cantu is an internationally recognized chef, a leader in the field of post-modern cuisine, and a culinary maverick who views food as an artistic experience,” noted Larry Graham, president of Washington, D.C.-based NCA “His unique culinary perspective will add another dimension for other panelists to consider while vetting the product submissions.”

In 2011, Cantu, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, opened iNG, the world’s only restaurant offering flavor-changing experiences. The innovative eatery has so far been the subject of more than 200 news reports.

Panel participants convene to judge the products the day before the Sweets & Snacks Expo opens. On the first day of the expo, almost 6,000 retail and wholesale trade customers will be able to vote electronically for their preferred panel-selected items in each category.

“Despite new candy and snack product releases being flat in 2012, our award submissions grew by more than 15 percent from last year,” said Tim Quinn, VP of trade development for Mars Chocolate North America in Hackettstown, N.J., and expo chairman. “We work in an industry that thrives on innovation, and the expo’s Most Innovative New Product Awards act as a way to drill down to items which have the potential to become bestsellers in an industry that sees thousands of new product releases every year!”

Award winners will be revealed on Wednesday, May 22 during the Sweets & Snacks Expo’s keynote session.

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