ProSweets and ISM hailed a success despite dip in visitor numbers

Having just returned from covering both ProSweets and ISM, there’s plenty to reflect upon across the four days of these major global trade shows.

There were some interesting developments within both events that made them well worth visiting, and it’s easy to understand why they remain ‘must attend’ sector showcases for attracting some of the most notable talent within our industries.

Despite challenging factors such as the prospect of Interpack just several months away meaning some of the largest exhibitors stayed away, there was still a sense of optimism that both events held strong prospects.

While exhibitors reported to Confectionery Production there appeared a fall in visitor numbers (37,0000 recorded by official figures, against 38,000 for 2019 within ISM), and 18,000 in 2020 against 21,000 for the previous year at ProSweets), many companies expressed positive sentiment that the actual quality of those attending was high – which remains a vital issue. That’s certainly something the organisers were keen to stress.

Clearly, one of the matters which undoubtedly kept a certain total of people away was the coronavirus in China. The country has traditionally provided ISM with a strong contingent of visitor numbers, but concerns over the issue clearly impacted this year.

Another influencing factor is likely to have been the ongoing sense of market uncertainty in a number of global territories, not least of which Europe, surrounding the outcome of Brexit and whether a final trade deal will emerge at some point this year.

If it doesn’t, then there is likely to be a protracted scenario of establishing new trade tariffs that could be particularly damaging for all concerned. The subject was a notable (but by all means not the only), topic on the agenda in Cologne.

In terms of the shows themselves, there were indeed many positives to be seen around the halls with regard to the quality of equipment, systems and concepts on display. There were also some strong events and talks in evidence across the two fairs – from discussions of major trends addressing the drive for healthier and more sustainable sourcing of products, through to the potential use of artificial intelligence to solve industry production challenges (a core theme of the #connect2030) conference held during the shows this week.

From speaking to a number of businesses represented at the 50th anniversary ISM, it seems that despite markets proving comparatively unpredictable, the core activities of product development to drive consumer interest remain a pretty much constant factor for many companies.

Perhaps among the most stand-out contributions came from artisan producers seeking to respond to demand for healthier products. This also sparked the creation of some innovations in personalised confectionery designs and novel environmentally friendly packaging solutions, which offered plenty of reasons for cheer in terms of how creative our sector remains.

Some have argued otherwise, that real innovation may be a little thin on the ground these days, but that’s not a line that I would personally recognise from the many conversations I have had with friends and colleagues right across the industry.

It’s fair to say that with ProSweets being reduced in size, this was reflected in the volume of visitors, yet there were some notable equipment and systems on display, from depositors and moguls, through to packaging lines that were notable during the four days of the event.

So, all in all, the 50th anniversary of ISM, which saw Cemoi’s Patrick Poirrier claim the ISM Award, proved an enjoyable one which will linger in the memory. As exhibitors explained to our team, it’s very much a case of having to wait a good few months down the line to see if positive leads turn into full commercial opportunities, but for many, the signs appeared encouraging.


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