ISM’s Wide World of Confectionery

New, more spacious venue for the world’s largest confectionery fair found manufacturers also taking a broader view on how to market their products. By Mary Ellen Kuhn and Bernard Pacyniak
Considering that this year’s International Sweets and Biscuits Fair in Cologne, Germany, featured 9 percent more exhibitors (1,616) than the show in 2004, and that the exhibition space increased from 82,000 to 110, 000 square meters, there’s little doubt that global interest in confectionery continues unabated.
It’s also safe to say that many of the visitors who roamed the expanded exhibition space may have noticed vendors taking a broader view on how to market their products. Trends that quickly stood out involved the ongoing and even more intense development of chocolate products, with increased emphasis on cocoa bean sourcing, dark chocolate’s nutritional benefits, flavor fusion and intensification, and broader experimentation with shapes and ingredients.
Fresh from the plantation
Plantation-sourced chocolates, such as those from Rausch, made news at the trade fair. In 2000, when Jurgen Rausch, managing director of Rausch, introduced his Plantagen Schololade, he sensed that the discriminating public was ripe for a new level of chocolate consumption.
His launch of six plantation chocolates (Amazonas, Arriba, Tobago, Madagaskar, Java and Noumea) with varying cocoa contents (from 34 percent to 75 percent) touched a nerve with chocolate aficionados.
As Rausch noted in a brief interview, the rapid growth of the new premium chocolates has prompted the company to commit to expansion as a means of resolving capacity issues.
At this year’s fair, Rausch displayed two new additions to the Plantagen line, Santo Domingo fine dark chocolate with a 55% cocoa content and Puerto Cabello, fine whole milk chocolate with a 43% cocoa content.
Cheesy chocolate and mini mountains
Mama Mooo premium chocolate products shown off at the trade fair by Switzerland’s Chocolat Schonenberger were nothing short of cheesy. Of course, we mean that in the most positive way possible!
Seriously, though, new items from Schonenberger provide excellent examples of confectionery shape creativity. Mama Mooo items are 100 percent chocolate, but they’re molded—complete with plenty of real holes—to replicate wedges or slices of Emmental cheese. “Switzerland stands for good chocolate and Emmental cheese with holes, so we combined the two,” reports company executive Rene Gautschi.
The Mama Mooo products are presented in a variety of ways, including rectangular and triangular packages as well as in a round tin with eight wedges of chocolate. So far, they have been a hit, not only in Switzerland, but also in Japan, says Gautschi.
Even more eye-catching than the company’s “chocolate cheese” are its authentically scaled chocolate reproductions of the Matterhorn. Packaged in gift boxes—and sold in Swiss tourist destination gift shops and as business gifts—the mini-Matterhorns come in two varieties. One is filled with hazelnut gianduja; the other has a caramel filling.
A vision in white chocolate
Photographs, cartoons and logos recreated in white chocolate with exacting attention to detail by ChocPix give new meaning to the term “eye candy.”
The creations—made using a sophisticated mold-making technology developed by this United Kingdom-based start-up—were a sight to behold for those who took the time to stop by the booth at the British Pavilion where they were showcased.
The ChocPix illustrations can be perceived with a casual glance, but they are best viewed by holding the chocolate up to bright light. When that is done, the full detail of the illustrations can be appreciated.  
 “We can create anything absolutely faithfully, down to the last detail,” says Frank Lia, ChocPix marketing director. Based on the samples on display at ISM, it’s clear that he is not exaggerating.
The ChocPix products featured there ranged from novelty items like a Valentine’s Day lollipop that depicts a woman blowing a kiss to a 5" X 7" bar on which Cologne’s famous cathedral is reproduced.
Lia says that he and his three partners in the venture (all friends who worked together at various points in their careers) believe that ChocPix products would work particularly well in museum shops, which could use the white chocolate medium as a vehicle for reproducing famous works of art. ChocPix products have been picked up by a smattering of specialty confectionery shops in Europe, including the gift shop at the Chocolate Museum in Cologne.
The entrepreneurs, who will be showing their wares at the All Candy Expo in June, are looking for manufacturing/marketing partners to help commercialize the concept around the globe.
“I’ve launched 50 or 60 products for other companies,” says Lia. Now he’s hoping to make the new product rollout process a truly personal experience with the launch of ChocPix.
Marzipan marvels  
Marzipan confectionery products have been described as “edible art,” and for the hundreds of carefully crafted items available from Germany’s Odenwalder Marzipankonditorei GmbH, it’s a completely accurate description.
The recipe for marzipan is relatively simple; it’s made mainly from almond bits and sugar. Odenwalder offers the product in a vast variety of colorful forms—ranging from elegantly presented fruit-shaped confections to whimsical teddy bears and pig figures in dozens of guises (pigs are associated with good luck in Germany). This year, the company even introduced licensed figures from a German television show.
Odenwalder marzipan products have sold well in Cost Plus stores in the United States, and the retailer is adding more items for the coming year, reports Odenwalder’s Katrin Zuber.
However, with the dollar currently valued so low vs. the euro, the potential to develop more North American export business at this year’s ISM show was limited.
“Last year, many people from the United States and Canada were interested in our products,” says Zuber, “but this year not as much.”
Meanwhile, however, Odenwalder’s marzipan products continue to be sold in many European countries, as well as in the Middle East, according to Zuber.
The company prides itself on the high almond content (40 percent) of its products.
“The quality of the products depends on the amount of almonds used because they cost more than sugar,” says Zuber.  
Traditional Spanish chocolate
The price of almonds and the devaluation of the dollar also are issues for the Spanish company, Chocolates Valor S.A., reports Alberto Duenas, marketing director for Valor’s U.S. division.
A $50 million company in Spain, Valor is particularly noted for its chocolate bars made with whole Marcona almonds from the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, last year’s almond crop was not strong, according to Duenas, so the ingredient cost has jumped substantially.
The company has had a U.S. presence for only three and a half years, so it has opted for a conservative approach to price increases. “We raised it a little, but not much because we want to try to stay competitive,” says Duenas.  
In the U.S. marketplace, 100-gram Valor chocolate bars typically sell for about $2.49. The company is introducing a line of 200-gram sugar-free chocolate bars that carry a suggested retail price of $5.99. The ability to charge a higher price for the sugar-free bars is a plus, especially in light of the dollar situation, Duenas notes.
Marshmallows European-style
If you think that marshmallows are merely sugary white blobs best consumed in close proximity to a campfire, then you’ve never met Michael Sas.
Sas, vice president and general manager of leading Belgian marshmallow maker Van Damme Confectionery, is a man with a mission—to introduce U.S. retailers and consumers to Van Damme’s extensive array of marshmallow offerings.
Van Damme makes marshmallows in a myriad of forms, including seasonally appropriate shapes and colors—green and white Christmas-tree marshmallows or pink and white heart-shaped marshmallows for Valentine’s Day, for example. Chocolate-enrobed Chocomallows come in 7.5-ounce plastic tubs and are flagged “from Belgium,” to capitalize on their Belgian chocolate content. Then there are Jammies, which are rounded marshmallows with a fruit filling, and Marshmallow Scoops, which feature colorful, fruit-flavored marshmallow pieces, each coated with crystallized sugar and packaged in a cone.
One of the SKUs that Sas believes has the greatest potential in the U.S. marketplace is Marshmallow Fries, a 7-ounce gusseted bag of pastel-colored marshmallows shaped like French fries.
Not only do Van Damme marshmallows come in a broader assortment of flavors and forms than their traditional U.S. counterparts, but their taste is different as well. They are made with less starch and thus are softer and less chewy than U.S.-made marshmallows, Sas explains.
Zeta Espacial  keeps things popping  
It’s true that kids are kids, no matter where they live. When it comes to the business of keeping kids around the globe entertained with candy novelties there are regional differences, however, according to Marta Mas, marketing director for Barcelona, Spain-based Zeta Espacial.  
Mas says there seems to be more emphasis on branded novelty candy in the United States vs. in Europe where brands are a bit less important if a product is truly new, fun and different. Within Europe, she continues, the licensed candy of choice varies considerably from country to country, so candy makers frequently need to negotiate licensing agreements on a country-by-country basis.
One brand Zeta Espacial has commercialized around the globe is Pop Rocks, which the company has been selling since 1979. This year, Zeta Espacial is upping the play value of the popular kids’ candy with the rollout of Pop Rocks Laboratory, which it bills as “an edible science experiment.”