Exclusive feature: ProSweets Cologne 2022 extended review
Having experienced a pandemic-enforced absence of two years, this year’s ProSweets was always destined to be a memorable event, as editor Neill Barston found in Cologne
With uncertainty surrounding whether ProSweets would be happening until just a few weeks before the show, conditions were far from perfect for its staging. The coronavirus pandemic that has created such significant disruption over the past two years very nearly put paid to the event proceeding at all this month in Germany.
But perhaps against the odds – and with Covid-19 infection rates recorded at nearly 250,000 cases a day, it went ahead with heightened levels of hygiene protection for those who were able to navigate ongoing travel restrictions. While official figures were not unsurprisingly significantly down of a peak result of 19,000 visitors for the 2019 show (recorded as 6,000 for the four-day event between 30 January and 2 February), for those who did attend, it proved a memorable experience. See our exclusive video interview of 2022’s event here.
Notably, there were a number of equipment and systems innovations that were delivered across the show, with a total of around 200 businesses representing 21 countries participating. Though the challenging conditions resulted in some major businesses opting not to exhibit, there were still noteworthy innovations across packaging, processing and wrapping systems for the sector. Markus Rustler, CEO and president of Theegarten-Pactec, was among those who welcomed the chance to re-engage with the industry to kick-start 2022.
He said: “Considering that we are not in normal times, we were quite impressed, and the show has been better than we had expected. “We had quite a number of new and old customers during the show who had some interesting projects, so overall we are very satisfied,” noted the CEO, who said that despite the lower volumes of visitors, he believed the company had gained some positive momentum in offering a world debut for its CHS packaging system.
Rustler enthused that the new line was well received by customers, who were able to see live demonstrations of small chocolate items being wrapped on the company’s stand. He said its key performance figures of processing 1,600 pieces a minute offered a critical point of difference, with an example of the line already having been successfully placed with a Scandinavian business. Consequently, for this year’s show, manufacturers placed a strong emphasis on developing flexible machinery with efficiency, productivity and hygienic design as core development principles, as sustainability of operations takes centre stage across the industry.
As Koelnmesse added, within the ingredients section and dedicated event zone, natural lines and solutions for reformulated products also played a major role. Linked to this, within the packaging section, the significance of individualised forms and sustainable packaging is also on the increase and proved popular at the show. Furthermore, one of the standout ingredients contributions came from Netherlands-based GNT, which returned to showcase its classic Exberry natural colouring foods series. Maartje Hendrickx, market development manager, explained its philosophy for 2022 was in moving away from focusing on a single ‘colour of the year’ to engage with the market on a wider level.
She said: “It’s good to be back again and we’re seeing some really innovative things on the market. What we’re trying to explain is based around naturalness and sustainability focused on clean label, which is a trend that we’ve seen in a large percentage of the sweets category,” she explained.
“What we’ve seen here this year at ProSweets and ISM is around 50 percent of products and systems focused on traditional sweets, and the other 50% on healthier options, and protein enriched, as well as insect based snacks. That’s something that we saw two years ago, but now it’s overwhelming.”
As regards wider trends for its Exberry series, she noted that its core colouring solution had seen growth particularly in the US with health-based gummy series with added vitamins, which has now filtered through into European and wider global markets. “That segment is more like a blur between nutrition and confectionery, which is the sweet spot where we play the biggest role,” she revealed on one of the hottest trend topics of the moment.
In terms of the broader event, one of its core innovations was its hybrid staging linked to its digital platform, ISM & ProSweets @ home, where from the third day onwards ProSweets offered online access for a number of its knowledge sessions.
Gerald Böse, president and CEO of Koelnmesse, welcomed the return of the trade fair. He said: “ProSweets proved itself to be an important business event in spite of the difficult framework conditions. In conjunction with ISM, the international supplier fair provides a holistic overview of the sweets and snacks industry and sets important impulses in terms of raw materials and ingredients, packaging, packaging machines as well as machines and systems.”
As Koelnmesse added, for most of the exhibiting companies the participation was an important step towards normality, with a total of 60 per cent from outside Germany. It believed there was a high quality of trade visitors, with reduced visitor numbers allowing time for an increase in the scope of conversations had with contacts, held within advanced hygiene precautions. In addition to attracting a wide range of equipment specialists, major confectionery groups were also in attendance including Mondelez, Nestlé, Ferrero, Perfetti van Melle, Haribo, Henry Lambertz, Alfred Ritter and Mars Wrigley.
Speaking to a number of exhibitors, Confectionery Production found there had been largely positive feedback, despite concerns relating to its markedly lower visitor levels. Discussing the show, Markus Bartels, general manager of German bakery equipment firm Walterwerk, felt despite initial uncertainty surrounding the show, it ultimately proved fruitful.
He said: “We are really happy to have been here – not in terms of the numbers, but the quality of visitors this time has been much better. It felt like it was more like a European exhibition, including Turkey, as we didn’t see the usual Russia or Asian attendees that we would normally have seen,” he noted of the exhibition, which he asserted had produced a number of promising leads. Furthermore, he noted that the business had weathered the pandemic particularly well, despite challenging conditions. Consequently, the business enjoyed its strongest year ever in 2021.
Among chocolate processing businesses exhibiting this month was Belgium’s Prefamac, which displayed a number of systems representing its full range of production competence. Managing director Myriam Schepers expressed concern about reduced attendances, yet the business still managed to showcase its latest developments.
She said: “For the show we introduced a new Temper meter, which we believe has a high level of quality and range of functions, as well as our first bean to bar machine, the Prefanibs, a grinder/mixer machine, starting from cocoa nibs, to produce delicious chocolate. The resulting chocolate will contain less than 22 micron particles so the machine creates a top quality product. With the same machine also nut creams, ganaches, spreads can be produced. It’s an ideal way to increase the variety of end products for our customers.”
In addition, she added that the company also offered a first-time showcase of its Quick Melter QM40, melting 500 kg of chocolate blocks per hour, working with cocoa butter, cocoa cream and fats, as well as displaying its Turbo Block Flaker. As she explained, the machine is the fastest of its type produced by the company, flaking eight blocks of 5 kg together, as well as larger blocks to enable a broad degree of potential applications.
As regards other packaging developments, Christoph Krombholz, marketing manager for Germany’s LoeschPack, revealed that despite the low visitor numbers, there had been some encouraging responses to its latest modular extension to its established LTM-Duo packaging model. The company showcased the system that has now been integrated with a new automated cartoning line to enhance overall manufacturing operations.
“Consumers have been eating higher levels of chocolate and confectionery during the pandemic, so this has resulted in our customers asking us for better ways of packaging lines, which has resulted in a good situation for us,” noted Krombholz, who said this year’s returning event would pave the way for revived attendance levels next year. Despite observing broader challenges for the industry including logistics issues regarding supplies of components, he believed the outlook was strong for the rest of 2022. “The response to our new module has been very good – people like it as it’s very compact, and you can also operate the whole LTM-Duo line with just one operator. We’ve modified the line with a new HMI system, which can now be used like a smart phone, so we’ve improved its useability.”
In terms of sorting and inspection equipment Wouter Oers, technical sales associate for Tomra Food added that the business had enjoyed some promising leads from its time exhibiting at this year’s event in Cologne.
He said: “Overall, we have been really happy to be able to speak to people. I’m following up on the Belgian market and we have our customers close by, and it’s the same for those who are here with our customers in the Netherlands. It’s been good to meet some new customers here, though there are not all that many at the show.” As the team added, the show had proved useful in reaching out to explain to potential customers on the opportunities for optical sorting of confectionery, explaining that there were still a number of people who were not fully aware of the potential options available with such systems for the sector.
“We shifted from doing live demonstrations in our offices to online demonstrations, and we put a lot of cameras next to machines and showed a lot of customers how they operate and how they do it, which is something we’re now taking to trade shows as well.”
For its part, Wolf machinery, based near Dresden, also welcomed the event’s revival, yet its director, Michael Wolf, believed that under present circumstances, it should have been delayed until the Spring.
He said: “Many companies haven’t come to the event, but I think the pandemic will hopefully be over soon and it will be full again next year. I have to say the quality of contacts we have had has been very good, as only business people were allowed to attend,” explained the managing director, who believed it had been unfortunate that the event had been notably impacted.
Despite the lack of visitor numbers, he added that there were some reasons for optimism within the business. He added: “The coating section of our business is doing well, as we’re a world leader in that field, and that is going well for us with our orders,”
Furthermore, sustainability was high on the agenda of fellow German business Syntegon, with visitors to its stand gaining chance to experience the company’s sustainable solutions for the sector using paper or mono-material, which have been driven by consumer demand for product ranges that are less environmentally impactful.
Dr Sandra Link demonstrated some of its key machinery including lines catering for mass production to depositing and finishing of jelly products, with visitors to its booth offered insights into its Makat portfolio, which has been expanded to include kitchen technology.
As she explained, its booth had been focused on showcasing the potential of offering complete lines to customers, which as Confectionery Production has reported, has been increasingly desirable for many manufacturers eager to secure complete production solutions for high quality confectionery series.
She said: “Our focus in on our jelly lines and our different production technologies, and from last year we took over kitchen technology that means we are covering the whole equipment that you require right from raw ingredients until the finished product, and then we also have vertical packaging machines for the secondary packaging,” explained Dr Link, who also agreed that there was a huge ongoing trend for equipment processing health-based gummies and other ranges such as CBD-based items.
Among Italian-based packaging machinery businesses, Sacmi reported an encouraging response to its portfolio, though conditions did not permit it display equipment. Speaking to Confectionery Production, Antonella Cavalieri, marketing manager, said that despite the challenges of making it to the show, there had been some positives. She said: “We had an incredible year in 2021, with turnover increasing significantly, and we have already gained strong sales for 2022 already, so we’re looking at what the future will bring for the business,” noting that the company had intended to use ProSweets to showcase several new systems, which pandemic conditions did not allow it to proceed with.
For its part, Australian-headquartered TNA solutions also enjoyed a notable few days in Cologne, as regional specialist Luca Menassi (below) explained, noting a number of key trends emerging at the event.
He enthused” “Sugar reduction was one of the biggest trends discussed at this year’s ProSweets exhibition. This can be attributed in large part to recent legislative changes, with several regions including the US, UK and parts of Europe already having implemented a ‘sugar tax’ and many more looking like they will follow suit. This is creating significant challenges across the industry with just under half of participants of a global consumer survey stating they would either buy fewer confectionery products or stop buying these products altogether as a result of increased sugar taxation.
“From a product positioning perspective, it has become crucial to clearly communicate when products are ‘reduced sugar’ or ‘sugar-free’, since these on-pack messages are especially attractive to health-conscious consumers. In such cases, replacing all or part of the sugar in a formulation with a low-calorie alternative – like stevia – is a key strategy. Meanwhile candies made from fruit pulp or juices, gluten, gelatin-free and organic ingredient options are emerging to cater to the latest breed of health enthusiasts.
For its part, Hansella, formerly part of Bosch Packaging, but now aligned to the Rotzinger Group, felt that ProSweets had been worthwhile. Frank Jansen, of the business, said: “This year’s ProSweets was positive for us. Our stand was visited by many customers who were interested in our exhibits, but also talked to us about future and current projects and toasted with us to 101 years of Hansella. Many discussions were held with customers about a wide range of projects that are spread around the globe.
“But Corona has clearly left its mark. Many exhibitors stayed away from ISM and ProSweets. Customers from Asia and America were poorly represented and there were far fewer participants from Europe than usual.
“Nevertheless, we used this first chance to present Hansella as part of the Rotzinger Group. We succeeded very well. Especially in terms of competence, customer orientation, hospitality and team spirit. We are convinced that Hansella and Rotzinger left an excellent impression on the industry.”
Among those firms making the journey from the UK in spite of the travel ban placed on Britain from Germany during Christmas, was Peterborough’s Baker Perkins. Cameron Gilchrist, European sales account manager, explained the company attended with a strong offering, showcasing its latest starch free depositor, the ServoForm Flexi, targeting the gummy market, designed for medium outputs of 200kg-1000kg an hour.
“It is really good to be back, as it feels like I haven’t seen the world in a long time, so this is an opportunity to re-engage with customers, which is exciting. “We’ve placed a high level of importance on this event – the world of technology has changed in the last couple of years, with people meeting over Teams and Zoom, but being in a single location with someone with machinery, is great, as it’s more relaxed.”
On its latest depositor line, he added that it filled a gap in the market for machinery of differing output volumes, and anticipated there would be a notable level of engagement from segments including those looking to develop product ranges including functional and neutraceutical series, which now extends to confectionery items. There were other new British equipment releases for the show, including BCH Ltd’s latest liquorice processing series, which reportedly met with approval from visitors to the show. Stuart Grogan, operations director felt there had been a relatively consistent stream of enquiries from the trade fair.
He said: “It’s been a very busy show for us, we have had visitors from Australia, South America, Turkey, and across Europe, all of which were very serious enquiries, including some interesting large projects. “So for us, it’s been very a worthwhile exhibition, as it always has been,” explained the operations director, who said there had been an encouraging response to its key liquorice line, capable of handling six colours, which was among a broad range of confectionery process engineering equipment on display at the show.
Meanwhile, Greg Meredith, of Netherlands-headquartered Ecomec, which specialises in second hand machinery, noted its concerns over lack of footfall at the show. However, adding a note of optimism, he said the market for reconditioned equipment lines remained strong as confectionery markets continue to boom around the world. As such, he said the chance to reconnect with existing customers meant the show still retained some value, even in its less extensive form.
For his part, Paul Jeanneret, (below) CEO of South-American founded GR Confectionery, made a long journey from Chile for the event, and felt it had been a worthwhile endeavour. The company has gained core competencies in developing flexible moulding equipment and automatic panning lines for hard, soft and chocolate panning operations, exporting to a wide range of locations around the world. He said: “We’re very happy to be here finally after two years of not being able to exhibit, and this is one of the most important trade events for us, with its location alongside ISM where a lot of our customers are. “We’ve been showing a chocolate panning machine here which has some really good automated features, and while we are still in the pandemic, we’re happy that there have been a good quality of customers visiting us here, though of course it’s not been the same as in other years.
“We hope this marks the start of trade shows, and being here has given us the option of meeting with our customers rather than just seeing them through video calls,” added Paul. Another business recording positive outcomes for the event was Scotland’s MacIntyre, showcasing crucial updates to its existing Next Generation refiner/conche. “It’s wonderful to be back at ProSweets, though it has been a little different this time wearing masks, but it is lovely to return in person. Video conferencing has its place, yet it’s not like the real thing, so it’s great to be here,” said sales manager Linda Mather.
“Everyone is just pleased to find out about the new technology that’s out there and seeing everything for themselves – seeing is understanding, so it’s allowed people to come and explore machinery, so we’ve had a positive response.” She explained there had been some key upgrades for the core line on display – its latest iteration of the next generation refiner/conche, focused on delivering process cycle time and energy reduction for its operations.
Moreover, Netherlands-based cocoa processing business Caotech made a welcome return to the show after an absence of several years, demonstrating its key lines. Olaf Schepel, sales and marketing manager explained it was pleasing to be back after three years since it last exhibited, though noted it had been challenging to prepare for the show.
He said: “We have invested in the booth and brining machinery here, so in deciding to come, we wanted to be here completely rather than just 50 per cent, so we have focused on some of our lines including the CAO B3000, one of our batch lines, which has been very well accepted in the market, used by many companies who are starting to make their own chocolate,” he explained of its presence at the show.
As he stated, the past two years have proved challenging, and had feared a sizeable impact on its activities, but he expressed gratitude that the business has kept going with a consistent stream of research and development into advancing its industry technology.
Bas Brands, area sales manager for fellow Netherlands firm Tanis Food Tec (main image), which showcased its marshmallow equipment expertise at the trade fair, was also relatively upbeat about the event in spite of the challenges of staging the event. He said: “Of course it’s not been the same as in previous years, but it has been good to be back here and able to meet people here in Germany. Teams and Zoom are good in certain ways, but there’s nothing better than personal contact. It is indeed a challenge to keep developing new systems for our market, but it’s something that we are able to do together with our customers, who give us feedback, which is important. What do they need? We translate that into technical solutions that we are able to then present at events like ProSweets.”
He added that its base of customers had continued to express a desire for additional capabilities for equipment ranges, and had been particularly keen to explore means of using its systems to create sugar-free product lines in response to changing demands from consumers.
Meanwhile, Tanis Confectionery, which has gained a strong specialism in systems for producing gums and jellies also reported notable interest in its lines during the four days of the show. The company demonstrated its compact T-Gel 400 kitchen series at the event. Kees de Veth, chief commercial officer said: “What I hear from colleagues from across the show is that visitors haven’t been so many, it’s quiet, but the quality of the visitors is there. We’re lucky in that a lot of our customers are upstairs at ISM.
“We’ve shown our most compact line here as it’s the easiest to put on the stand. It’s been with customers now for over a year and there has been a good response to it and people do really like it. As for the company, we have been affected by not being able to travel, though our main overseas market in the US is doing alright and we have been able to go there. We’ve kept going with our research and development throughout the pandemic, including making candy with active health ingredients.”
Meanwhile, Kees Le Loux, product manager for lollipop equipment at GEA, expressed concern regarding the visitor numbers, and noted “there had not been the right balance” between exhibitors and numbers of those attending, largely due to the pandemic.
He said: “We had a few new people that we met this week, which is always nice at an exhibition, so maybe in the long-run we will have some results from that. “We didn’t have a specific focus for this year’s event as we didn’t bring any machines, and it’s clear that without that, there’s a little bit less interest,” adding that the company had learned a valuable lesson in the need to ensure equipment displays on stands. Within the marshmallow category, Tanis Food Tec exhibited alongside its parent company, Orangeworks, with the companies competencies combining to offer a number of industry solutions. Bas Brands, area sales manager for Orangeworks, explained that the event had offered a welcome chance to engage with customers. “This is one of the first events to be opening up again, so we’re very happy to be ‘getting back to normal’.”
Speaking to Confectionery Production, Raf Tuytelaars, of machinery business Hacos, said the business had tried to make the best of challenging conditions at the show, but conceded there ‘had not been the balance’ between exhibitors and visitors. “We’ve had a few new people which is always nice at an exhibition, so maybe in the long-run there will be something from it. We didn’t bring any machines this year, and what is clear is that there’s a little less interest, but we tried to work with our screens here, but I think it is better with real machinery.”
As German-based WDS revealed, the two-year break had been particularly testing in terms of being able to fully engage with its customers. The company has built an established reputation for its chocolate, gums and jellies processing lines. “From the very beginning, being close to the customer has been one of the most important instruments for communicating and explaining our technical innovations without ‘friction losses’. It also helps us to recognise changing market requirements and new trends,” says Rainer Runkel, managing director of WDS. For this year’s event, the company presented several solutions and industry services including highlighting its technical centre.
This offers customers a chance to work-up key recipes for the confectionery sector, including access to the latest depositor systems, which use innovative processes to enable product developments. The company also showcased the growing market for OTC confectionery, focusing on the trend-setting use of technologies and benefits of chocolate plants for the production of gum and jellies. So, overall, despite there having been some significant absences from companies and equipment planned to be exhibited, there was some strong collective groundwork laid for the next event. This has already been confirmed for a return to Cologne, between 29 January-2 February 2023.