ProSweets sees key confectionery equipment launches despite pandemic challenges

A number of key equipment and systems innovations were delivered at this year’s ProSweets in Cologne, Germany, despite its attendance results being impacted by the ongoing pandemic, writes Neill Barston.

Organisers Koelnmesse confirmed final figures of around 200 businesses representing 21 countries eventually exhibiting at this year’s key event, recording a total of 6,000 trade visitors from 60 locations around the world ventured to the show across its four days between January 30-2 February. See our exclusive video review of proceedings here.

This stood at around 30% compared to a peak figure achieved in 2019, of 21,000 attendees in pre-pandemic times, which had a notable influence on proceedings.

Figures were negatively impacted as many potential visitors faced travel restrictions – including from China, which has previously attracted a strong level of interest, as well as for the UK during Christmas, which also impacted on many British firms’ ability to attend the parallel ISM finished product event last week.

Consequently, a number of international manufacturers were unable to participate due to challenging conditions – against a backdrop of 250,000 coronavirus cases in Germany reported a day at the start of February. As a result, major names including Buhler, Cama, Gerhard Schubert Ishida, Sollich and many smaller firms could not put hoped-for plans into motion for exhibiting at the core industry showcase.

However, there were a number of machinery launches and developments across the show, despite the challenges posed in hosting the event. Among those companies exhibiting new packaging, processing and wrapping systems were Theegarten-Pactec, Baker Perkins, BCH, WDS, ACMA and Loesch to name a few. Plans have already been confirmed for the next event’s return in Cologne, between 29 January, 2 February 2023.

Markus Rustler, CEO and president of Theegarten-Pactec, welcomed the chance to return to the live event arena in Europe, which followed recent appearances for the business at Gulfood Manufacturing in Dubai and the FachPack packaging event in Germany (see our extended coverage with companies in our March edition of Confectionery Production).

He said: “The show has been better than we had expected it to be. Honestly speaking, it has been very empty compared with shows in normal times, but we have had customers visiting and had real interest in us and had real projects, which is a good thing.

“So with it being less hectic, we had more time to talk with customers and go into details. From that perspective, it wasn’t so bad,” noted the CEO, who explained that the company had gained some positive momentum with the first chance to showcase its CHS packaging system (pictured below).

For this year’s show, manufacturers have continued to place 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 noted, within the Ingredients section and in the new Ingredients Event Zone, natural ingredients 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. This was reflected in the trend towards personalised products in the survey “My Food – Personalised Diets” of the German Agricultural Society (DLG), presented at the event.

Furthermore, ProSweets took an additional step forward in delivering its hybrid event concept linked to its digital platform, ISM & ProSweets @home, where from the third day onwards ProSweets Cologne offered the exhibitors, visitors and media representatives numerous new possibilities of coming into contact with partners, potential customers and interesting companies. Every on-site exhibitor was simultaneously represented on the platform with a digital showroom.

Gerald Böse, President and Chief Executive Officer of Koelnmesse, welcomed the return of the event, after its enforced two-year absence with the annual event cancelled last year amid the height of the pandemic.

He said: “ProSweets Cologne proved itself to be an important business event in spite of the difficult framework conditions. In conjunction with ISM, the international supplier fair provides an 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.

“But the fact that ProSweets Cologne took place was of great significance for the industry and more also underlines that trade fairs with a clear business focus can be conducted safely in pandemic times. At this point my thanks go to all of the exhibiting companies and partners, who actually made ProSweets Cologne 2022 possible.”

As Koelnmesse added, for most of the exhibiting companies the participation was an important step in the direction of normality. It believed there was a high quality of trade visitors, with reduced visitor numbers allowing time for an increase in the quality of conversations had with contacts.

The overall impression comprising of the exhibits of packaging, machines and systems also met with a positive response. As was already the case at the autumn events, Koelnmesse’s safety and hygiene concept proves itself and ensured the smooth running of the trade fair.

In total, 60% of visitors were from outside Germany, with many from Eastern Europe, the Near East, Africa, the EFTA states, Asia as well as from Central and South America. There were was also a smaller contingent from North America. The countries with the strongest participations included the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, France, Turkey, but also Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

Alongside production managers from leading companies, numerous medium-sized and smaller companies also came to gather information, since they themselves make the decisions regarding further investments in their companies.

According to Koelnmesse, major confectionery businesses including  Mondelez, Nestlé, Ferrero, Perfetti van Melle, Haribo, Rübezahl Schokoladen, Intersnack NL, Suntjens, Henry Lambertz, Alfred Ritter as well as Mars Wrigley Confectionery visited the show.

Speaking to a number of businesses, Confectionery Production found that there had been largely positive feedback, despite concerns regarding the low visitor levels.

Discussing the show in Cologne, Markus Bartels (left of pic), general manager of Walterwerk, noted there had been uncertainty over whether the event had been set to continue even just a few weeks beforehand. However, he said the company was pleased it had proceeded.

He said: “We are really happy having been here – not in terms of numbers of course, but the quality of visitors this time has been much better. It felt like it was more like a European exhibition, including Turkey, geographically, as we didn’t see the usual Russia or Asian attendees that we would normally have seen.

“I think we managed fine in showcasing one of our lines here, as well as engaging with customers with our video screen displays,” he noted of the exhibition, which he said 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 yet in 2021.

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, though believed the wider conditions were a factor.

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. When you do have equipment if there’s room on a stand, does attract visitors, so that’s something that we’ll learn from.”

Furthermore, speaking to Confectionery Production regarding its key launch, Christoph Krombholz, marketing manager for 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, which 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. He added that there were still challenges facing the business including logistics issues for component parts – which he explained had proved an industry-wide issue amid the pandemic. Despite such tests for the business, he believed the outlook was strong for the rest of 2022 (for more see our next magazine).

As German-based WDS noted, 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 majored on the growing market for OTC confectionery, focusing in particular on the trend-setting utilisation of technologies and benefits of chocolate plants for the production of gum and jelly. The WDS plants ConfecECO, ConfecPRO and ConfecVARIO can produce jelly products in polycarbonate moulds were also highlighted.

  • For our extended feature on ProSweets, featuring even more businesses exhibiting at the show, catch our March edition of the magazine.

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