In the snack industry, it’s hard to know if companies are competing in a quarter-mile drag race or a 500-mile marathon. The accelerating pace of innovation puts the pressure on manufacturers. Meanwhile, sales of traditional snacks are rising slowly and steadily, signaling that the market is still ripe for growth. Chasing victory at the checkered flag requires different strategies.

SNAC International is tapping into the racing mentality when it hosts SNAXPO20 March 22-24 at the Westin Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C., the home of the NASCAR All-Star Race. The snack industry has a lot in common with NASCAR, according to Elizabeth Avery, president and chief executive officer, SNAC International, the least of which is NASCAR’s influx of new followers to balance out its loyal and longstanding fanbase.

Not only will the opening party be held on March 22 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, but the trade show floor will feature a NASCAR prototype racecar and a driving simulator. Attendees will hear from Jill Gregory, executive vice-president and chief marketing officer for NASCAR, the morning of March 23.

“Holding the role since 2007, Ms. Gregory has had the challenging task of engaging a younger, more diverse fanbase and cultivating an emerging crop of new drivers,” Ms. Avery said. “She has also had to ensure that the 71-year old brand keeps its most loyal, longstanding followers happy. Building on SNAC’s commitment to the Women in Snacks initiative, attendees will also hear an interview on her career journey and how she became an executive leader in a male-dominated industry.”

SNAXPO20 will highlight that snacks sales are expanding faster than the overall food and beverage category. SNAC International augmented the popular Latin American educational program this year with the first-ever Canadian Educational Track.

“Adding education for these two markets positions, SNAXPO, as the leading source of snack industry information, focused education on the entire North American market,” Ms. Avery said. “Each educational track will explore regulations impacting the regions as well as the latest marketplace data and category trends.”

There also will be educational breakout sessions along with Innovation Stage presentations throughout the show. Keynote speakers include Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice-president and practice leader, I.R.I. Ms. Avery said the I.R.I. presentation helps snack manufacturers understand current and emerging trends and innovate accordingly.

In addition to the networking and speaker lineup, SNAXPO20 attendees will enjoy the tried and true benefit of a trade show floor full of equipment, ingredients and other snack manufacturing technologies.

“Attendees can see live demonstrations from leading suppliers along each step of the snack creation process,” Ms. Avery said. “Whether you’re interested in analytical testing, alternative ingredients, co-manufacturers or transportation services, SNAXPO will have it all for attendees to touch and taste firsthand.”

After SNAXPO20, SNAC International will return to the biennial rotation of equipment and educational shows, but with an all-new brand. The 2021 event, to be held in Phoenix, will be called SNX. It will have an increased emphasis on curated educational programming and networking.

To spark innovation and increase engagement, three interactive spaces were designed for SNX. In The Experience Zones, attendees can participate in a five-part snack production tour that features supplier kiosks, pop-up education presentations and producer-supplier engagement areas. Keynote speeches, education sessions and the SNAC Tank Pitch Competition will be held at The Education Arena.

To foster conversation among snack makers and suppliers, SNX will offer Supplier Suites. These converted hotel rooms will give show participants a private area to discuss sourcing, operations, supply chain efficiency and more.

“Providing opportunities for the snack industry — producers, suppliers and other stakeholders — to come together to develop new ideas and address their shared challenges and opportunities is essential to SNAC’s mission,” Ms. Avery said. “This new lineup provides the value our members seek and will position attendees for individual and company success.”

Following SNX, SNAXPO will return with a full equipment show in Nashville, Tenn.