Special focus: ISM Middle East reflections

With ISM’s key Cologne event just about to start in Germany, we reflect back on its recent edition in Dubai at the World Trade Centre, which threw up plenty of surprises and notable treats from around the world. Editor Neill Barston reports

Having transformed from its former identity as Yummex two years ago, ISM Middle East went the extra mile to impress in unveiling a host of new products for the region.

The show, which took place recently at the Dubai World Trade Centre, alongside Gulfood Manufacturing, has seemingly found its niche in playing to the strengths of the region in terms of its product, taste and flavour preferences. With a reported total of 12,800 visitors to some 354 exhibitors, its halls certainly felt like an event carrying positive momentum in spite of wider global market challenges

German Sweets success

For his part, Karsten Daum, director of the German Sweets export organisation, spoke to Confectionery Production at ISM Middle East, after he appeared as part of a Q&A session examining how companies can explore importing to Dubai and the wider MENA countries.

He expressed confidences that the region was performing comparatively well, and that there was in fact a demand for European confectionery that he said its members were making the most of through contributing to the German pavilion at the recent event.

“The ISM Middle East is definitely important for many members of our organisation. We’ve had 15 members exhibit for this event, and it’s not just the Gulf market that is of interest, it’s also into the wider North African region and Asia as well.

“So it’s a very mixed event, and it is well positioned in relation to the ISM Cologne event in terms of finding people from this specific region. I can imagine that there will be more exhibitors wanting to be here at the show, as there has been further demand to be part of our pavilion. As he noted, there will be additional space for the event as it moves to a new time-frame for its next edition to be held on 24-26 September back at the city’s world trade centre. “We really hope that it will work with the new timing, as the region is very relevant to us,” he enthused on future prospects for the show.

Among success stories for the show, Alice Plskova, international sales manager for Churchills Confectionery, believed the event had been worthwhile. As she explained to our magazine, the
business has made its annual round of investment in new lines, alongside potential for developing private label sales.

Having grown considerably since setting up at the end of the 1980s, the company’s confectionery ranges from vanilla fudge, and mini shortbread round, through to toffee and chocolate chunk biscuits, set within its striking range of souvenir tins. According to its sales manager, one of the biggest challenges has been in devising confectionery ranges that suit the differing tastes of its consumers around the world.

While there are clear variations in product preferences, she explained that there’s very much a universal like of its elegant tin designs that have proved its unique selling point. She said: “The response has been very good, as usual the packaging of our ranges is really good and attracts a lot of attention. We made some strong contacts, so from that perspective in that we’ve been introduced to
some important customers in the area.

“The outcome will depend on the follow-ups, but overall it has been a good show. I think there have been some strong leads that will potentially develop from new and existing customers.”

While her overall impressions were positive, there was a degree of concern over the noticeable level of non-trade visitors attending the show, which had been an issue which Confectionery Production noted several exhibitors raised as an area for improvement for the next edition.

UK presence

Among new exhibitors at the latest edition of ISM Middle East, was the UK Kayow Nutrition, which proved one of a small hardy band of several British companies making the trip to Dubai to exhibit. A spokesperson for the company said: “We set the brand up two years ago, and are now in ten territories around the world. We’ve come here as we wanted to expand our presence in the Middle East, and we’ve had a fantastic show. “Our products have been flying off the shelves, to the point that we didn’t have enough stock to give out during two and a half days. We have had some amazing feedback.

“What we have delivered is our take on he Reese’s peanut butter cup, no added sugar, increased levels of protein, gluten-free, and no palm-oil.

“Creating our product with so many USPs was the main challenge for us, so getting the distribution for it was not quite as challenging as that is my background.

Over on the Brazilian pavilion, Leonardo de Almeida Pelegrino, export manager for Brazilian confectionery firm, Montevergine, felt it had proved an interesting few days.

The company, which has been operating since the 1960s, had valued links with the Gulfood show, noting it was a shame that the events will not be staged together in 2024. “This is my first time, at the show, but our company has been coming here since it was known as Yummex. We have made some good contacts here, in terms of distributors and wholesalers, and I think we will make some business from being here for sure,” he explained, noting there had been key interest in its core nougat bar at the show

Finally, Katharina Buschjäger, ISM Middle East’s show director felt there had been an encouraging reaction from visitors to the latest edition of the event. Reflecting on her first year leading the
show, she considered that overall it had been a notable success.

She said: “I am very happy that our exhibitors were highly satisfied with this year’s trade-fair edition and rated it as a clear business success. And we are particularly looking forward to 2024 – with even more space and exhibitors.”

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