ISM organisers hail 2022’s event a success, despite pandemic-impacted visitor numbers

The organisers of ISM have confirmed its final attendance figures totalling 15,000 visitors across the four days of the key event in Cologne, Germany this week, with results notably impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, writes Neill Barston.

According to Koelnmesse, around 80% of visitors were from overseas for the show, despite the fact travel restrictions heavily affected the ability of Asian-based attendees from China, to participate in the international confectionery showcase. Catch our exclusive video review of the event here.

Despite the challenging conditions, which saw Covid cases potentially near a peak of 200,000 a day last week, many exhibitors welcomed the chance to reconnect with existing and new customers from around the world- from a total of 96 countries.

Confectionery Production reported live from the event, which saw a diverse array of new product launches from a total of more than 1,000 companies displaying their latest ranges at the global showcase.

Speaking to a number of visitors and exhibitors at the show, those who had made the journey, largely felt that it had been worth it – though exhibitors expressed concern at the level of attendees, which was significantly below the official figures for the last event. In 2020, ISM officially attracted a total of 37,000 attendees for its 50th anniversary celebrations, staged across 120,000 square ft of space.


As organisers explained, for this year’s show, one of the areas for core growth has been within plant-based and vegan markets, with customers seeking to place a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing amid the pandemic.

This was reflected in some of the launches that saw companies put forward new category launches that spanned everything from high-protein sports nutrition bars, energy boosting ranges and natural ingredients, vegan chocolate series, through to some notable innovations such as edible upcycling from cacao plants, as well as insect-based snacks making an appearance across the show’s expansive halls.

With just weeks before the show was due to be staged, there remained uncertainty as to whether it would proceed given record high levels of Covid within Germany, but the organising team’s measures including delivering wider event aisles, additional sanitisation of key areas, and its ‘3G’ entrance system for those who had been vaccinated or prove recent recovery from corona were notable factors. See further full coverage in our next edition of the magazine, including discussions with some of its pavilions, such as the Brazilian contingent (below), featuring businesses like well established confectionery firm Simas (below).

Gerald Böse, President and Chief Executive Officer of Koelnmesse, believed it had proved a worthwhile event, in spite of the extremely testing conditions.

He said: “We are delighted that the restart of the leading global trade fair for sweets and snacks was successful amid these challenging times. This is not least also thanks to the exhibiting companies, who took part in the 51st edition of the trade fair. Of course, we weren’t expecting a superlative trade fair or new records, but the fact that ISM 2022 took place underscores once more the fact that trade fairs with a clear business focus can be staged safely also in pandemic times and can offer their respective industries the urgently needed platform for the development and expansion of international business.

“The leading global trade fair for sweets and snacks is thus sending an important signal to the sweets and snacks industry, also to the entire trade fair business in terms of confidence and optimism.”

His views were echoed by Dr. Uwe Lebens, Deputy Chairman of the International Sweets & Biscuits Fair Task Force (AISM), who felt the most significant aspect of the event was the fact that everyone was able to meet once again after a two-year enforced break, with the show being cancelled last year amid the pandemic.

He said: “Precisely now, it is important to offer the industry a central business platform, which it can use to present existing and new products to a broad trade audience. The high internationality of the exhibitors and visitors shows once again how important the event is for the global sweets and snacks industry.”

Speaking to Confectionery Production, Jack Steijn, founder of the Chocoa cocoa and chocolate event in Amsterdam was among those visiting the showcase in Cologne. He said it had proved enjoyable to see some of the many new innovations within the confectionery sector, and had attended to engage with a number of fine chocolate businesses exhibiting at the show (see our subsequent article).

Neil Kelsall, of Chocolat Madagascar (main image), was among those recording a strong response to its ranges, with the company’s ethically-based fine chocolate supporting manufacturing chocolate directly in Madagascar, finding a welcome audience in Cologne. Another business reporting a high level of interest in its well-established ranges was Swiss-based Villars.

As the organisers noted, it was the joy at personal encounters, engaging in an exchange face to face as well as sampling a variety of sweets and snacks that were of key importance at this year’s ISM. In addition to the high quality of the visitors, the exhibiting companies praised above all the opportunity to engage in intensive discussions with partners and customers.

Furthermore, the good international response with a 78% participation of foreign trade visitors contributed towards the positive mood of the trade fair. The European countries with the strongest participations this year were the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Turkey. Growth was particularly registered from Eastern Europe and Russia. Beyond Europe the trade visitors predominantly came from the Near and Middle East, but also from the USA as well as from Central and South America.



Alongside the high quality of the visitors, according to the exhibitor survey, above all the share of persons decisively responsible for purchasing decisions also increased. An initial evaluation of the visitor survey emphasises that around 90 percent of the respondents have a “decisive” or “contributory” influence on procurement decisions.

In addition to the live trade show, organisers enabled a digital presence for the event, under the banner of ‘@home’ allowing access to its presentations, which will be available until April via its app. The next edition of ISM is set to take place between 29.01.2023 to 01.02.2023.

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