ISM combines with ProSweets for one-off special edition amid key market challenges

After being hit with the tail end of the pandemic last year, ISM returned in force for its 2023 edition, as editor Neill Barston reports, exploring its one-off April placement with ProSweets.

A sense of celebration abounded at this year’s ISM event in Cologne, as exhibitors and visitors returned in significant numbers to play their part in Europe’s largest confectionery and snacks event. This year saw a combined showcase with ProSweets, and included a broad array of new and expanded product ranges that proved both inspiring and intriguing in equal measure for event attendees. (You can see our exclusive closing interview with event director Sabine Schommer here).

The fair, which was delayed from its traditional January position, was held between 23-25 April at Koelnmesse, with its postponement due to concerns over inflation and the wider global energy crisis, opened on a positive, with companies eager to display their core portfolios across its condensed three-day format.

Among the highlights were trend presentations from Euromonitor and Innova market insights on some of the core issues facing manufacturers in the sector, as the industry has continued to grapple with ongoing supply chain challenges. As previously reported, ProSweets featured in a compact format, with its businesses located within the boulevard halls of ISM, which many visitors noted had helped create a sense of greater dynamism across the event. Offering a closing note of optimism, event director Sabine Schommer relayed that both exhibitors and visitors alike had expressed confidence in the trade fair.

She said: “It was such a pleasure to have a ‘nearly normal’ ISM again, with everyone being happy to be back. The fair looked fantastic, we have novelties such as Lab5, and we’re all very happy to be back in touch with our customers once again, with exhibitors already stating that they’ve also been very happy with the show.” Speaking to

Confectionery Production on the event, Matthew Stephenson, director of UK confectionery business Sweetdreams, explained the business was visiting rather than exhibiting, and believed there were some strong innovations on show. He said: “I think the show is better this year – it’s smaller than it has previously been with less exhibitors, but it’s more focused, which means there is more space for those that are here.

“We are not exhibiting here for the first time in many years, which is because our export strategy isn’t really about the EU, it’s about a more global approach, which we took forward with being at Gulfood recently. But my first impressions of ISM are that it’s going to have been a good show for everyone,” explained the director of the business, which has just extended its confectionery portfolio with a new premium brand, Gozo, through a sourcing partnership with Colombia’s Luker Chocolate.

Fine chocolate making breakthrough

Meanwhile, Neil Kelsall, director of Chocolat Madagascar, believed the return to Cologne had once again been successful, as the company unveiled a Raw Mava Estate Fine Dark 100 per cent unroasted cacao bar series.

As the company explained, the 75g product brings fresh new flavours and a greater number of flavanols (antioxidants), which research has indicated could have potential significant health benefits, which are presently being evaluated by health authorities around the world. Describing its latest range, the Madagascar-based business observed that flavanols also are considered to potentially have other positive impacts including improving blood flow, reducing

inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, and enhancing cognitive function. Commenting on the event, Neil Kelsall said: “Last year, coming out of Covid-19, even though the traffic was a lot less than usual, it was quality, and this year, it has been a lot busier. “It’s nice to see a much larger area for fine chocolate in hall 5.2, where we can see all our customers and new potential ones as well from all around Europe and the world. “Most chocolate is roasted in production, but we wanted to preserve the flavours of cocoa, so we developed an innovative technique, where we can make chocolate safe, while preserving the fermented cocoa with raw chocolate, that we’ve made in 70 per cent and 100 per cent varieties.”

UK pavilion success

Meanwhile, Sandra Sullivan, director of PS8, which managed the UK pavilion for the show, also believed there had been a particularly encouraging response to the show, despite wider market challenges. She said: “ISM has seen some changes – we were here in a big way in 2020, we were here in a big way from PS8 and the Food and Drink Exporters Association with a strong number of 85 business for that year’s event, and this year we have 35. The main reason for this was the timetable of it – Cologne had to take the decision when it would take place this year, and it’s the wrong time for a lot of businesses who have already done their seasonal buying.


But what we do know is that a lot of those companies who had been here exhibiting regularly previously, are visiting the show, and we hope they’ll be back again in 2024 when it is back to being in January.”

She added that there had in fact been positive feedback from visitors to the pavilion, and noted that this year’s show offered some genuine diversity in terms of audiences from around the world. “We’re glad to be back here, as it’s a really important show, as sweets and snack from the UK is such a strong sector, and ISM is a real showcase for that.” For its part, UK-based Freedom Confectionery, specialising in vegan marshmallows, also reported brisk trade at the event, registering plenty of interest from visitors to its stand. The company was in fact one of the small handful of British businesses to have made it for last year’s ISM, with UK companies unsure if the event would be staged with restrictions for firms within the region only being lifted at a late stage for the show.

Sales director Elvin Willgrass, commented: “As a brand, and leader for being vegan and 14 allergy-free, this is a super important show. We were here last year, and there are more companies returning here for 2023, it’s building-up again. “So, it’s been great for us to be back in Europe again exhibiting at ISM – it’s a little bit different with the timings. But i’ve seen some lovely innovations here, and we’ve been exhibiting our new sugar-shelled products with our marshmallows.”As he added, the company received interest in its expanded portfolio, which also now includes dairy free, chocolate coated marshmallow rocks, in addition to its latest dehydrated, freeze-dried product options.

Elsewhere located within the UK pavilion, James Cadbury, the great-great-great grandson of John Cadbury, was on hand to support his Love Cocoa and HiP plant-based ranges return to the show. Speaking to Confectionery Production, he enthused that it was good to be back for his third visit to ISM. He said: “I think it’s been really good and seen quite a lot of people here, though it’s been less busy than before Covid-19, with less exhibitors. “Our Love Cocoa brand is doing well, as well as HiP oatmilk chocolate, and we’ve been showcasing new products including some new pouches for HiP, which has been really good, alongside promoting a lot of seasonal ranges too. “We’ve had some really positive comments from people visiting the show, but it’s only until about six moths down the lien that you can tell if a trade event has been successful.”

Furthermore, the entrepreneur confirmed that the business is presently seeking a key location for its firs retail outlet in London, amid a period of sustained growth for the company. Moreover, it was not just the UK pavilion that enjoyed key results this year at ISM, with Brazil’s Abicab trade organisation explaining that it had been a welcome return to Germany.

The group’s marketing director Andrea Ferrari welcomed its return. She said: “Our nine companies here have been very proactive here at the fair, and there has been a big difference compared to the previous year which was affected by the pandemic. There’s a new phase of the market and they are very glad to be meeting people from many countries, and they are happy with the results.”

For his part, Luis Simas, of the Brazilian-based Simas brand enthused that there had been an encouraging reaction to the Brazilian pavilion once again, with this year being a particularly significant one for the business, which marks its 75th anniversary this year.

He explained: “It’s a proud moment for us as a business with the anniversary. We have been coming to ISM since the 1980s, and it really does feel like we are part of the show, and many of our customers who have been buying from us for 40 years and know we’re going to be in Cologne, so it’s important to be here. The show is very specific to our industry for candies, chocolate and lollipops, and you get to see what other countries are making, so you can get new ideas that you can work on with your team. It’s nice that people are interested in our products and you remember people who visit you, and it’s the same for them,” he added adding that it was good to be back at ISM with a larger booth, and part of a strong Brazilian contingent.

Similarly, Ricardo Rocha, of Brazil’s renowned Garoto brand also agreed that the business had enjoyed a successful few days in Cologne, despite the show being in a condensed three-day format for this year.

He said: “This year’s event hasn’t been quite like it was before, but for us, the most important thing about ISM is in meeting our clients. As a business, we found that the first year of the pandemic was challenging, as after the first quarter of 2020, everyone stopped buying, worrying about the situation, but by the summer of that year, people actually started buying more in e-commerce, at least as far as South America was concerned. It felt like we were in the right place at the right time.

“The first period of this year has seen us continue to grow as a business, after a 45% increase we saw last year, which has been good for us. We have found our bar products have been the big product for us, followed by our batons, which have been very popular in South America. And we’ve found that after the ecommerce sales, we found that wholesalers sales also increased in stores.”

Chocolate orange heritage

Another brand that caught the eye this year was Terry’s – which was formerly an extremely well known British brand, but for the past five years has been thriving under new ownership in France.

As the company behind the business explained, it has gone to considerable lengths to preserve the original recipe of the classic series, though its packaging in particular, has undergone something of a revamp in recent years.

A spokesperson for the brand explained that there had been plenty of interest in the classic series during the three-day Cologne event. She said: “We have had amazing reaction again this year – it’s an iconic brand that is really well known in the UK, but not everywhere, so people are continuing to discover it. People have been delighted to try it, so there’s been lots of interest. We will have a new product out for Christmas this year, which we can’t say too much about now, but it will be an exciting turning point for Terry’s.”

Another key brand exhibiting on the wafer side of the market was Italy’s Loacker, which showcased a number of new novelties for its present range, as marketing officer Federico Ignaccolo explained. He noted that there had been a strong response to its series during the three-day event, which was particularly encouraging for the business, which will also be exhibiting at this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo.

“We have had a great show here at ISM, and it’s also been a great year for the business in terms of tonnes of volumes that we have sold, with sales up 13% for the business, so it’s been a good period. We’re very strong in the Middle East, which has helped us a lot with that key market growing, as well as there being a great year in the US.”

He added that the business had moved to respond to consumer demands in evolving its portfolio, with a core focus on delivering an indulgent experience, as well as quality product ranges. The business also launched reduced sugar and multigrain wafer series, which he said had been well-received at the event.

Keto friendly
Another business that drew in significant crowds during ISM was Austria’s Ketofabrik low sugar Keto diet brand, which has fast been making waves within the past couple of years. Speaking to on its debut, Nicola Di Loreto, co-founder of business, explained that he and his team had established the company after seeing notable growth in the segment within the US. He said: “We were delighted to be nominated for an ISM Award this year, as this was our first time at the event. The nomination was a good and positive start for us at such a big trade fair. “We’ve had some great conversations here, including at the ISM dinner event, and for us as a start-up, it’s a very good way to meet people, as we’re trying to do something new. “Our Keto bars are designed to be low sugar and tasty, which came from our vision to reduce sugar consumption,” explained Nicola, who added that the company has grown swiftly from its original concept, being born out of his business partner’s inability to find Keto products locally within his home city of Salzburg.

“We showed our products to people in our area, and then we managed to gain a supermarket listing in Austria, and then it went from there for our ranges including our chocolate bars.”

Another notable trend being presented at the event was a dedicated area for Halal products, which highlighted a broad array of products right across the confectionery and snacks product range.

As Yusuf Ogus Evler, dtfood, representing the Halal section, explained, ISM had proved a key platform for the market category, especially given a notable Muslim population living locally within Germany, seeking out specialist products.

He said: “The market for Halal is continuing to grow, and we joined with Koelnmesse to show more and more products within the category, where we have been able to show confectionery buyers that this can be profitable. For the Muslim community, it has shown that there’s more than just one choice worldwide – so it’s continuing to grow,” noting that the segment had experienced an upturn in a number of areas, including biscuits and chocolate.


Ethical sourcing
Significantly, ethical sourcing delivered another critical focal point for ISM, with a number of companies expressing their sustainability credentials including MIA (Made In Africa). As previously reported, its model of creating best possible value for farmers through retaining manufacturing and the complete production process in Madagascar is continuing to make an impact. The business, which claimed a sustainability accolade at last year’s World Confectionery Conference, used this year’s even to provide a platform for its latest Ghana Gold series of bars.

This takes manufacturing of its series to another level, through reaching out to producers in Ghana to replicate the same benefits that had been seen with retaining operational interests for farmers at source in the country of origin. Brett Beach, co-founder of the business, believed this year’s event had proved worthwhile, focused on its message of delivering Fairmade chocolate.


He said: “Fairmade as a concept at its most simple is about finding a good ingredient and making a product. In doing that, you are at least going to double the value of that ingredient, and create skilled jobs – that’s where the made comes in, and Fair is in terms of paying a fair price. “With MIA, we are doing this in Madagascar and Ghana, and we feel that this is important as we can shine a light on the huge imbalances that exist in the cocoa industry. Africa grows 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa, but produces less than one per cent of our chocolate bars. “With Fairmade, this can go beyond chocolate and into other products around the world,” noted the director, who enthused that ISM yielded some key opportunities for the business.

As Brett explained, the business started out its vision manufacturing chocolate in Madagascar, but it is now enjoying an exciting new chapter as it expands production to Ghana, which has also been renowned for the quality of its cocoa beans, which are used within a number of premium ranges, including MIA’s latest

We always look for capable partners who are ambitious and we offer them an opportunity to create export products, where we can add premium features with packaging and ingredients, as with our cashew bar that allows those makers to try something different. There have been some setup challenges in Ghana, but working with people who are in manufacturing in food safety, in production lines and work together to solve problems, which is what is all about,” explained Brett who said it was accepted as being normal to experience some initial launch challenges, yet he believed that it was very much heading in the right direction.

“People here at ISM have really liked the Ghana Gold flavour, which is a tribute to the cocoa farmers, as well as the chocolate making and the work we did together. People are noticing the concept of Fairmade and it is resonating, and people are taking note. We’ll have to see how it goes after the show – people are excited and are looking for new things at the show, so it’s all about that follow-up afterwards to ensure that products are circulated to consumers and into the market.”


ProSweets special edition
For this year’s condensed three-day ISM, ProSweets took up residence with its halls as a one-off, and attracted businesses across equipment, systems and ingredients segments. As featured earlier in the magazine, Germany’s Nocoa confectionery business, which is among the first to market with lab-developed chocolate ranges, reported particular progress. Co-founder Max Marquart felt the reaction from the global audience gathered in Cologne was especially encouraging.


He noted: “The show went amazingly well for us. Despite our location being a little bit off the main area, a lot of customers and prospects visited us on our booth. On Monday that even led to a queue of up to 30 people that wanted to talk to us simultaneously. From the ProSweets/ISM experience, we can tell, that Nocoa arrived in the industry and is ready for the market. The positive feedback on our samples that we presented there shows that as well.”


On the equipment side, there appeared to be some satisfied businesses from the event, including Netherlands-based Tomra, which reported a steady stream of interest in its boulevard stand. A spokesperson noted it ‘was always interesting to see what is happening at ProSweets, and also our partners in the market, particularly within packaging,” noting that the business had set out to demonstrate that it had a wide ranges of systems for confectionery, which he believed had been achieved.

Also on the equipment side, UK-based Baker Perkins, which will be another business returning to our World Confectionery Conference later this year, also enjoyed a successful few days at the show.

Tony Prange, of the company, said: “Having been at the show last year in the depths of covid was a disappointment. Even though it’s been an Interpack year with it being surprisingly close to that show, it’s been surprisingly busy. There’s been some good new customers here, as well as existing ones as well, and ingredients suppliers too, so it’s been positive.

“We’ve had limited stand space here, so we have had to bring some samples and visuals to show people to get the message across to customers – it’s not as good as having the physical equipment there, but still helpful. I think that it is something that has to be evaluated carefully after the show, but first impressions are that it has been worthwhile. There’s been a mix of people from overseas, who will hang around for Interpack, but equally there are those who have chosen to do one exhibition or the other.”


For his, part Richard Horsley, of Paradise Fruits felt that while physical traffic around the event had not been the same as in pre-pandemic times, the business had made some interesting contacts over the course of three days.

He said: “I think it’s been a quieter exhibition than we had hoped for – footfall was down, but arguably the quality has been better, so hopefully the two balance each other out.

“From our perspective, we wanted to make sure we had a presence at the show to talk about fruit inclusions – we had some new offerings – solutions max range, which seemed to go down quite well, so we are now just looking forward to the feedback.

“I think the market is generally quiet, with a lot of concern about food costs, energy costs and cost of living, as well as transportation, so people are a little wary at the moment. In terms of innovation, I think people have perhaps been most focused on the cost side of their business, but as for ourselves, we are still seeing a reasonable level of sales this year, so we hope that continues.”

Colouring Foods
On the ingredients side, Netherlands-based colouring foods firm GNT, which will be joining us as a speaker at this year’s World Confectionery Conference in Yorkshire this October, was out in force for the ProSweets element of the show. Alison Donaldson, technical sales manager felt that it had been well worth participating in the event, which it attended under a creative banner of delivering ‘healthy hedonism,’

She said: “Previously, we’ve looked at trends for the colour of the year, which has been driven by the pantone colour reference, and everyone else has followed suit. “But what we’ve seen over the past couple of years, there’s been a real switch in terms of what people’s perception of colour really means in their food and drink. So we partnered with a market research group into identifying key market drivers, including generational trends, from children to Gen Z, through to social media trends, which a lot of younger people being very media savvy. So lots of information came out of this was the idea of healthy hedonism, which was about having fun with colour, as well as having a sustainable aspect to this.”

The business showcased its core Exberry series of colouring foods, which has continued to find a strong place in the global food market since its creation more than four decades ago, including a strong application within the confectionery sector.

“Every day we are innovating within the business, we have all of our R&D and sales teams are very focused on what we can do to help our customers bring the next big thing as it regards colour – this is something that we live and breathe,” noting that within its confectionery interests, there had been a particular increase in demand for development of healthier option sweets and snacks.

On the equipment side, Markus Bartels, general manager of Walterwerk equipment, noted that it had been a useful experience to maintain existing contacts across the industry. He said: “It’s been good enough over the past three days. But last year, we found that business was better in having a larger stand and possibilities to sit down, where you can sit down and talk about projects with deeper conversations,” observed the general manager, who remarked that there had been lots of interest in equipment ranges for ice cream cones.

ISM New product awards
The landmark Cologne sky tower served as a fitting backdrop for ISM’s key annual new product awards, with the top position being awarded to German-based tri d’Aix’s inventive sugar free Sweet Stories candy floss release. Confectionery Production was on hand to report at the event, which saw a host of entries from around the world compete for the keenly-contested honours, amid the event which marked its first full return without Covid-19 restrictions that had previously notably impacted on the global sector gathering.

The event’s awards, which are judged by an independent panel of industry experts, awarded second place for 2023 to Australia’s Cal Marketing Pty with “Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea Mochi” product, with third place going to Spanish-based World’s Coconut Trading, delivering its BBQ flavour purple sweet potato chips. Speaking about the winning entry, the ISM judges examined whether a product such as candy floss – which up until now been synonymous with sugar content, could in fact be produced in no-added sugar format. The verdict was a definite yes in the eyes of judges of the business from Aachen.

‘Just like at the fair, concluded the jury, which praised its 90 per cent less sugar recipe. Furthermore, judges explained the second place entry, Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea Mochi, primarily stood out because of its combination of being “soft and chewy”. It has a chilled taste experience of a special kind, according to the judging panel, which observed that Japanese mochi is gradually developing into a global trend product. Finally, the awards panel praised World’s Coconut Trading’s purple sweet potato crisps for the smoky flavour of the series, which they said stood out as being an eye-catching offering amid a competitive product category. The winning entries formed part of the New Product Showcase, which has been a hub for new products since 2009, and offered another major highlight alongside the event’s awards dinner. In total, this year saw a total of 65 display windows and over 97 products of more than 56 exhibitors from 17 nations, with organisers confirming that the ISM event is set to return to its favoured early dates of January 2024 in Cologne, Germany.

Related content

Leave a reply

Confectionery Production