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A taste of success with diverse ISM product launches

Professionals from across the confectionery world gathered to find out more about this year’s latest releases at Cologne, Germany. Neill Barston reports

For anyone who attended this year’s ISM, it would have been hard not to be more than a little impressed by the intense spectacle of its engaging colours, textures and ever more elaborate tastes.

Now in its 48th edition, the event in Cologne saw some of the brightest and boldest confectioners take to its huge halls to unveil their latest range of products.

As its organisers explained, there was certainly no shortage of enthusiasm from visitors, with direct feedback being offered from those within the trade that re-affirmed ongoing interest in the development of a large assortment of confectionery.

According to official figures, a total of around 37,000 attending the four-day event from more than 144 countries which represented a figure similar to last year’s attendance.

Clearly, high on the agenda was a thirst for seeing the latest trends on creating healthier confectionery and snacks, as consumers continue to demand a greater variety of on-the-go eating options that are perceived as being better for you.

Consequently, governments and authorities around the world, including Public Health England have taken a stand on the issue of childhood obesity – with the UK authority seeking a 20% reduction in sugar intake per person by 2020. Whether this will be realistic to achieve is hard to say in such a relatively short time-frame, but what is certain is that the confectionery sector has its part to play.

In response, manufacturers are increasingly turning their attention to the potential for reformulating products to include alternative sweeteners, or indeed offering ranges with no-added sugar.

The latter was in evidence with companies such as Netherlands-based BIP Holland BV, which has linked-up with Disney to offer fruit-based treats, in addition to offering separate chocolate toy ranges.

Then at the other end of the scale, there were start-up companies such as Latvian-based Chocolette Confectionary, which launched its Red brand of low fat, low calorie chocolate, which the company says has involved chocolatiers from Switzerland and France to create a product that offers a point of difference over its many rivals.

As show organisers explained, there was no shortage of interest in its annual product innovation awards, in which a host of new flavours, recipes, and packaging were under the microscope and voted for by visitors.

This year, first place was awarded to Swiss company HPW, for its health orientated Fruit Balls, a snack consisting of dried tropical fruits, which contained no added sugar or sweeteners, as well as being vegan and gluten free.

In second place was German business GOT7, producing a protein enriched wafer filled with cocoa cream, which also boasted gluten-free credentials. Third place went to Dutch chocolate business Lovechock, with its innovative raw chocolate which has been developed to be milk, soya and gluten free.

Speaking on the show, Bastian Fassin, chairman of the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair Task Force (AISM) said: “The fact that all of the important distributors from home and abroad were present, demonstrates the huge appeal of the trade fair, but also that of the extremely innovative industry. International trade relations are indispensable for most of the companies.”

Commercial innovations set to deliver

Among some of the most striking developments at the show was an extension to US-based Jelly Belly’s successful bean series that has captured a strong global share.

Rob Swaigen, vice president for global marketing, explained its latest Beanboozled products had gained an encouragingly positive reaction by visitors throughout the event.

He said: “We’ve had a good response to our range here at ISM, and one of the biggest things for us this year is actually seeing the board game come into development for our Minions Beanboozled, which has been a lot of fun. We’ve also done well with our Harry Potter series of beans, that have proved particularly popular in the UK, as well as other promotional links to characters such as Batman, which has been another new addition to our range.”

To its credit, the company has continued to produce an ever-dizzying array of flavours for its famous beans, which now span everything from Apple pie and birthday cake, through to toasted marshmallow and Pina Colada to name a few.

There were plenty of other global firms represented at the event through its dedicated international zones, with the Brazilian section enjoying particular success.

This was organised by by ABICAB (The Brazilian Cocoa, Chocolates, Peanuts, Candies and Byproducts Industry Association) and ABIMAPI (The Brazilian Manufacturers Association of Biscuits, Pasta and Industrialised Breads and Cakes), which confirmed that its 19 exhibitors gained a total of $4.5 million in direct deals at the show, with a further $20 million over the next 12 months.

According to ABICAB, one of the most notable appearances among the Brazilian contingent was Jazam, which launched its Coloretti Natureti chocolate dragée pastilles made with natural colouring. “Our product launches have been greatly received, especially among European clients, such as buyers from Great Britain, Spain and Poland,” enthused Guilherme Souza, Exportation Supervisor at Jazam.

Riclan also showcased a number of releases including its latest chewy caramel, which was displayed at the show’s new product showcase area, dedicated to highlighting some of the most innovative new products being unveiled for the first time at the trade fair.

Meanwhile, another hit from the show was the Mexican pavilion, which was on trend with a number of companies exhibiting spicy confectionery offerings.

Among them was Sweets N Lollys brought with its unique range of lollipops called CoolToons which included flavours such as pear & chili, strawberries & chili, pineapple and Grandes Bolas de Fuego – Great Balls of Fire.

The company also presented its inspired in the popular Mexican celebration “Dia de Los Muertos”, which we first saw in the James Bond 007 film “Spectre” and now in the Pixar film “Coco”.

MD Enrique Luévano said: “We’re very excited about the European marketplace, Europeans, in particular from the UK, are so open to new flavours and experiences and there also seems to be a lot interest in Mexican culture. We want to share a little bit of Mexican flavour and spice through our unique range of sweets”.

UK Pavilion

For its part, the UK pavilion appeared to be catering to a diverse crowd of visitors, eager to gaining a closer look at some of Britain’s finest confectionery wares.

Within the fudge, toffee and caramel segment, there was a key launch from the Harrogate-based Serious Sweet Company, which unveiled its Fudge Kings brand at the show.

Managing director Rob Whitehead revealed that the award-winning company has grown considerably over the past five years, with interest far beyond its native UK.

He said: “The motivation for setting up the new brand came from the fact we couldn’t find anyone making fudge the traditional way, with many brands just seeming dated. So we wanted to bring back some artistry to its production.

“We have a high butter content to our fudge which gives it a fine melt profile, which influences the taste of it. We’ve already managed to gain a distribution deal for it with major supermarkets, explained Mr Whitehead, who said the company insisted on time-honoured production techniques for processing the fudge, which he believed had ensured a consistency and quality of flavour.

“I think that ISM really is the place to launch for the European market and we’ve managed to gain many leads that we’ll need to follow up, so it’s been an especially busy year for us,” added the entrepreneur, who expects his business to continue its strong pattern of growth.

Similarly, north of the border in Scotland, Mrs Tilly’s, which makes a wide range of fudge products, had been encouraged by initial results emerging from ISM.

Ronnie Wilson, commercial director, said: “The market has been challenging for us, especially with the increase in ingredients costs including butter, but we have extended our range for ISM.

“For the future, we will be looking to extend the range of products we do beyond toffee and fudge, but the company has now been going for more than 20 years. So we shall keep on developing the brand and moving the business forward.”

Among other noteworthy UK exhibitors was Churchill’s Confectionery, which has carved out a reputation for itself over the past three decades in producing highly decorative collections of sweets that have tapped into the collectors and tourism markets.

For ISM, the company showcased a number of key items, including a distinctive Victorian fun fair design, in addition to its souvenir series that features a London bus, Buckingham palace.

Kim Winston, marketing director, said: “This year’s exhibition has been very good for us, with a number of meetings with customers, and it’s also helped us in terms of driving the business forward through research, so from that perspective it has been really important.

We’ve become famous for our art deco confectionery products, and we’ll be launching a new one later this year, so there has been a lot of development of late. What we have found is that we’ve had people come up to us to say that they grew up with our products and they’re now buying them for their own families which is really good to see.”

Branded confectionery
Meanwhile, Welsh-based manufacturer of character and branded confectionery, Bon Bon Buddies, unveiled its refreshed own-brand range of mega sour sweets, Brain Blasterz, at ISM in Cologne.

The company’s Brain Blasterz range will appear on shelves in retailers and independents across the new territories from this month.

Ahead of the launch, the business refreshed its sour candy line to reflect the evolving preferences of its core audience (8-12 year olds) and to appeal to its new American and Chinese audiences, by expanding the range. It has designed bold new packaging and introduced new flavours, such as salty salmiakki, cola and tropical, while retaining its original apple, watermelon, lemon and berry tastes. The new Brain Blasterz range comprises 11 products, including Brain Bitz, Oozing Brain Gum, a 3D lolly and spray candy.

Sensory chocolate tasting experience

A major initiative has been launched by Barry Callebaut to develop a sensory tasting ritual aimed at consumers and chocolate professionals.

As the company explained, it has formed a partnership with global flavour group Givaudan for its latest project inspired by the wine, coffee and craft beer sectors.

Its ambitious work has led to a new book, “Hidden Persuaders in Cocoa and chocolate, a Flavor Lexicon for Cocoa and Sensory Professionals” unveiled at ISM.

Pablo Perversi, chief innovation, quality and sustainability officer at Barry Callebaut, said: “More and more consumers, and especially millennial foodies, share their experiences on social media. They are increasingly curious about food and taste. But while wine, coffee and craft beer could already be tasted, described and discussed in a rigorous and professional way, we lacked a language that did justice to the richness and complexity of chocolate experiences.

“Containing over 20,000 identifiable chemical compounds, cocoa is one of the most complex foodstuffs on earth. The sensory language that we have developed for chocolate, will allow consumers to share their passion for a specific chocolate taste much more accurately.”

The new work’s author, Renata Januszewska spoke to Confectionery Production magazine about her hopes for the title. She revealed it had been developed in recognition of a growing number of younger audiences becoming increasingly inquisitive about food and its range of tastes.

Renata Januszewska explained there had previously been a lack of a formal language surrounding chocolate tasting, which had offered a key opportunity.

She said: “This is a project that has lasted for the past two years, with the aim to create a common language for professionals within the chocolate community and something that would be useful for all of us, so that we could start to think in a uniform manner.

“For example, we might talk about vanilla in its natural form, but when it’s added to chocolate, it’s something that is described in a different way. So the book explores the creation of tastes and flavours that can be tried in cocoa and chocolate products, and corresponds to a scientific wheel.

“Its primary target is professionals, though we understood there will be interest from our end customers, which is why we decided to focus on easily understood presentations of flavors, which are linked with emotions, featuring descriptions of smell and taste. We hope a lot of people will now start learning the language of chocolate tasting.”
As a partner project to the book, the company also developed its sensory tasting wheel – which I was invited to try during my visit to ISM.

In truth, it proved a highly rewarding experience in being asked to consider applying similar principles that you might expect for your average wine tasting to better understand the surprisingly complex flavours to that make up many chocolates.

Its five steps, consisting of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste all came in to play, with notes being invited on each particular type of chocolate as we explored the properties of each of several sample bars. To its credit, the system is something that anyone could pick up relatively easily, though detecting some of the more exotic flavours certainly proved challenging.

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