Exclusive: ISM Middle East returns with its most expansive ever show

This year’s ISM Middle East is set to be especially memorable as the last show that will be directly linked to Gulfood Manufacturing, as it gains a new autumn date from 2024. Neill Barston speaks to its new director, Katharina Buschjager on her hopes for the event as she takes the helm.

Building on its dynamic revamp of two years ago, ISM Middle East as it is now known, feels like an event that is really going places.

As Confectionery Production found covering the event last year, the show, which is operated by Germany’s Koelnmesse is thriving under its re-badged branding, show- ing definite evolutions from its earlier guise formerly as Yummex.

Clearly, as earlier reported, the region has demonstrated considerable dynamism and resilience, with MENA region sales for confectionery, snacks and ready meals projected at $34 billion in 2023, up by a combined rate of 3.3 per cent from four years ago.

While its mode of operating may be a little different than many locations in that the ‘big six’ confectionery groups may not be directly exhibiting there, many of their product rang- es will be there in evidence through a strong
network of regional distributors.

As the event’s recently-appointed new director, Katharina Buschjäger enthused, the show is just about to enter the next phase in its development, with this year’s event between 7-9 November being the last to be held alongside Gulfood Manufacturing. From 2024, it is set to take place in a different time-slot at the end of September, which is anticipated to enable greater floor space to cater for a fast-rising waiting list of exhibitors for the event.

“The preparations are on the last mile with it all – our exhibitors are super excited, as we sold out for the event since July, which is a promising sign that the market is definitely asking for this trade fair.

“We are just in the final steps of refining our conference for the event, which is hap- pening for the first time, including a panel discussion, and we’re making sure that from an operational side of things that everyone
has what they want for the event, and we have so many really good products on show this year, so I’m really looking forward to it,” explains the director of its expanded elements that are anticipated to elevate it to its next level as it continues to develop along with the region’s tastes in sweets and snacks.

As with its parent ISM show in Cologne, Germany, it’s the centrepiece New Product Showcase that was among its core highlights last year, with expectations similarly high for 2023. Its return comes amid a wider product trends backdrop in innovation across premi-um brand offerings, as well as nutritionally-enhanced snacks and confectionery that have tapped into the wider desire for health and wellness ranges.

Reflecting on her appointment, she took over from her predecessor Jan Philipp Hartmann, who has now graduated to run the wider Anuga food and drink trade fair in Germany, Katharina remarked that it has been a rewarding test to date.

Having come from working in the automotive industry, she conceded that there’s been a steep learning curve, though having been made to feel very welcome by the sector, she felt that there were plenty of positives ahead of this year’s event.

“My role is super challenging in a positive way. I took over the post this Spring, so I am learning on the job, and listening a lot to everyone in the market, from our knowledge partners and exhibitors. It’s been really interesting, and I can feel it’s a very special industry,” she added, explaining that there has been a dual-track level of preparation for not only this year’s event, but to pave the way for its further expansion occurring next year.

But for now, as she acknowledged, there’s plenty to be getting on with for the 2023 event, including welcome its tally of 330 exhibitors from more than 40 countries to the major showcase, which is set to include a conference element for the first time.

As its recently installed new director notes, there’s been plenty of genuine excitement building around the latest edition, so much so, that there has in fact been a waiting list for exhibitors to the show, which will feature its traditional national pavilion format, as seen with its parent ISM sector showcase in Cologne. One thing is for sure, the trade fair is certain to deliver plenty of surprises in its final placement alongside Gulfood, which has offered a powerful combination of equipment, systems and finished product offerings for the region.

ISM’s Middle East repositioning

As for the show’s future development, in the build-up to the 2024 event there will be year-round insights and articles from the core ISM website that are set to lay the groundwork for the next physical trade fair. For industry professionals looking to forge new business relationships, or strengthen existing ones, there will be a new-to-show, dedicated networking programme connecting international exhibitors with leading regional buyers.

“Based on the impact that the launch of our brand ISM Middle East has caused in the region within just two years, we now set the sails for further growth with the new dates, to cater for the demand of the industry”, said Denis Steker, vice president international at Koelnmesse.

“We are proud of our strong partnership with DWTC, which has helped us expand and extend the proven model of ISM Cologne into the MENA region, and to address new content and topics,” Steker added.

“At Dubai World Trade Centre, we have always understood the potential for ISM Middle East to grow into the top sweets and snacks show in the region, which has driven our partnership with Koelnmesse from the outset. We are looking forward to bringing the flexibility of the region’s lead- ing venue, and our experience in delivering content driven conferences and engaging activations across our F&B events, to bear in taking ISM Middle East to the next level in 2024”, said Mark Napier, vice president, portfolio growth food and hospitality, Dubai World Trade Centre.

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