The Show of Shows
Lisbeth Echeandia

Another great ISM (International Sweets and Biscuits Fair) in Cologne, Germany. If you’ve never had a chance to visit this show, I highly recommend it. Of course, this year there was sticker shock all around, with the combination of a strong euro and a very weak dollar. I stopped converting euros to dollars and felt much better. And I paid cash for just about everything so there wouldn’t be post-show trauma when I got the credit card bill.
ISM saw approximately 34,000 buyers from 143 countries, with 63% of visitors and 81% of exhibitors coming from abroad. Impressive. There was a strong focus on organic in all areas and definitely some interesting flavor combinations offered in the chocolate segment. I wasn’t sure about the sage-flavored chocolate, but it was good! There were still many Americans at the show, in spite of the exchange rate.
The American Pavilion organized by the National Confectioners Association had a strong showing and, of course, with such a weak dollar, American products were even more interesting to international buyers. I did hear the comment from a number of international retailers that they were disappointed there weren’t many new products offered by American producers. A new bag or new graphics just doesn’t cut it. Now would certainly be the time for companies to put an innovative foot forward.
The other comment I got from a couple of retailers was the lack of homework some of the American companies had done in terms of who’s who in the international marketplace. (Hint: If it says Tesco or Sainsbury on the business card, pay attention).
Of course, I’ve had that same complaint from American retailers who shake their heads when someone tries to sell them something and really doesn’t have much of a clue about the company they want to turn into a customer.
And no, visiting the retailer closest to the company headquarters for ten minutes just before the sales call doesn’t count.
Good News for Chocolate Purists
Evidently, the Food and Drug Administration will not be pursuing a potential change in the standard of identity for chocolate. It appears they “did not receive many comments in favor of the change.” Very politically correct. I understand the FDA received at least 33,000 comments against the change, in the form of letters, phone calls and e-mails, as well as Internet blogs—an unprecedented number, I heard. The Web site started by Guittard Chocolate Company——certainly had an impact. This shows what can be done when people have a passion for something.
The Last Word
This column is, in fact, my Last Word. As of March 1, I will no longer be involved with Confection & Snack Retailing.
Thank you to the distributors and retailers who I’ve so much enjoyed working with over the years. Your generosity in sharing knowledge and points of view was invaluable, enlightening and very much fun! Sincere thanks also to the ingredient and equipment manufacturers, brokers and those whose open door policies and willingness to help my understanding of the constantly changing marketplace and developing technologies made my job so much easier.
You’ve all done so much over the years to support my efforts and my passion for the confectionery industry. Thank you.
And retirement is not in my immediate future, so I’ll be seeing you!
P.S. Please be sure to cast your vote for one of the Kettle Nominees! The ballot is on pages 36-37.