Despite a struggling global economy, candy makers and buyers gather at ISM to deliver a broad range of confectionery treats that deliver affordable pleasure and indulgence.

Comfort in Cologne

Given today’s global economic woes - and the toll they’ve taken on financial institutions and personal finances - it’s not surprising for many to seek out something rooted in stability, such as gold. After all, the gold standard continues to prevail in many circles, including confectionery.

Goldleaf Chocolate, produced by Linders Bonbons in Voerendaal, Netherlands, offers chocolate cream-filled pralines enrobed in 70% dark Belgian chocolate and 23-carat edible gold leaf. It’s the ultimate luxury to chase away gloom-and-doom headlines. Call it a decadent personal perk.

Those, however, wishing to detach themselves from such materialistic connections could opt for Lamberts’ newZensitive cookies, which integrate form, smell and taste to comply “with the five elements of the buddhistical Zen-lore.” Hence, Earth cookies combine rooibos with pear flavors in a square shape;  Fire, ginseng with orange in a triangular form; Wood, kiwi with mangosteen in a square shape; Metal, jasmine with white peach in a circle shape; and Water, green tea with lemongrass in an oval shape.

Of course, these pastry pleasures are embossed with the appropriate Chinese characters and contain no preservatives, artificial flavors or flavor enhancers. Consequently, consumers can let their soul relax and “nibble without a guilty conscience.”

And although at first glance these two product launches do not appear to have anything in common, decadence versus holistic inner peace, both aim at providing comfort to their respective consumers.

In the end, the 39th International Sweets and Biscuits Fair in Cologne, was all about comforting consumers, customers and candy makers. In grappling with a financial crisis that few had foreseen, but most were experiencing, confectioners from around the world once again gathered together for this annual pilgrimage focused on treats and sweets.

Granted, the numbers this year fell short regarding record attendance and companies exhibiting. According to Koelnmesse, there were 32,500 attendees from 150 countries. In addition, there were 1,593 exhibiting companies representing nearly every possible sweet/snack available from all four corners of the globe.

Despite these impressive figures, both attendance and exhibitor participation were down slightly from last year (1,636 exhibitors and nearly 34,000 attendees), a direct result of many companies cutting back on expenses because of economic uncertainties.

Naturally, the absence of Haribo, the world’s largest gummi bear manufacturer and long-time supporter of the fair, as well as Wrigley Europe, merely re-emphasized the anxiety about a world recession and the way some confectionery companies were responding.

Their absence proved a boon to the organic movement at ISM, however, the empty booth space providing plenty of room for the Organic Avenue exhibit, a space where several organic confectionery and snack producers could showcase their items in a “prime time” venue. (SeeSweet & Healthy E-newsletter, Feb. 11, 2009 issue.)

But even in the wake of fewer visitors, a decline in exhibitors and a cloud of uncertainty about the future, the “show carried on,” with many companies displaying their latest innovations to comfort all of us.

For example, ABICAB, the Brazilian Chocolate, Cacao, Peanut, Confectionery and Derivatives Association, reported that the 27 companies that exhibited at the show  were expecting revenues of $60 million based on the contracts closed during the fair. Of course, if you’ve ever watched a Brazilian soccer match, you’ll understand the inherent exuberance of anything Brazilian. Obviously it made an impact on buyers.

And in the discussions held with regular and established candy companies who have exhibited continuously, most had anticipated a slight drop off in attendance. Still, many remained content to see their “regulars” without having to waste time on mere curiosity seekers.

So what comfort confections were manufacturers offering up to buyers at ISM, besides the two mentioned earlier?

For starters, dark – not as in clouds looming over the economy, but as in chocolate – remains an ongoing trend. Camille Bloch, the long renowed supplier of Swiss chocolate specialities, opted to have its own booth at ISM this year, marking the 80th anniversary of the company.

In addition to highlighting its range ofTorino,Liguwer andMousse brands, the company was touting the most recent addition to its famedRagusa line,Ragusa Noir.Launched late last summer in Switzerland, Germany and other markets,Ragusa Noir features 20% more cocoa beans that the classicRagusa recipe while still adhering to the famous filling combination of cocoa, hazelnut praline and whole hazelnuts.

Speaking of anniversaries, another known confectionery player, Tom’s Group, celebrated the 125th anniversary of making chocolate under theAnthon Bergbrand. In doing so, the company takes comfort to another level with its “Sense it” campaign designed to maximize the ultimate chocolate experience.

For starters, the company, which is known for its chocolate bottles filled with liqueur, has introduced a “hypermodern sister product,” Dark Velvet. By capitalizing on the popularity of champagne and cognac, Anthon Berg has teamed up with Piper-Heidsieck Champagne and Remy Martin Cognac to create two distinct fusion truffles.

The Remy Martin Cognac Dark Velvet features a tasty nut truffle that combines the spirit together with  plum juice and a twist of chili. The Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Dark Velvet has a white chocolate filling that’s been mixed with the bubbly and a tangy white juice extracted from green grapes. Both are enrobed in dark chocolate.

Amongst some of the other new creations fromAnthon Bergare its Affection heart, which contains 17 heart-shaped truffles. The eight dark chocolates feature white chocolate fillings containing strawberry and lychee (the love fruit) flavors while the nine milk chocolates have a nut truffle filling containing passion fruit juice and a twist of chili.

The fruit fusion theme continues with the company’s new Twisty Touch 100-gram bars. The 72% cacao bars come in Strawberry and Orange and Mango and Pink Grape Fruit varieties.

Health continues to be a strong driver in confections, particularly in chocolate. Guylian proved to be the first major chocolate manufacturer to embrace ACTICOA, Barry Callebaut’s specially processed chocolate that delivers a higher percentage of antioxidants, with the launch of itsGuylian Extra Sea Shells.

Conscious of consumers’ ever-growing fondness of fruit, it also has expanded its traditional Sea Shell line by adding a lime flavor and relaunching its strawberry variety.Guylian Sea Shells Limette features dark Belgian chocolate (49% cocoa) with a creamy filling made of Belgian white chocolate and natural lime extract.

The improvedGuylian Sea Shell Strawberry filling is made with Belgian white chocolate and natural strawberry powders moulded in dark Belgian chocolate (49% cocoa).

A long-time health issue for chocolate and other confections, of course, has been sugar. From the labs of Barry Callebaut comes “toothfriendly” chocolate.

“Toothfriendly chocolate is sweetened with isomaltulose,” says Marijke De Brouwer, innovation officer at Barry Callebaut. “Isomaltulose belongs to the same group of sugar as sucrose. However, the bacteria in the mouth cannot use isomaltulose as a source of energy. Unlike sucrose, isomaltulose does not promote cavities.”

Several Belgian chocolatiers have begun producing chocolate products with isomaltulose. Chocolaterie Smeit has launched a range of hollow chocolate figures under theHopla brand while Daskalides introduced toothfriendly chocolate bars with a hazelnut filling. Also, Swiss ConfectionerHalter Bonbons rolled out tooth friendly hard-boiled candies with a chocolate filling last September in Germany in mint chocolate, coffee chocolate and caramel chocolate flavors.

Chocolate appears to have influenced many of Bahlsen’s new product launches at ISM. One “low-hanging fruit idea” that builds on the success of the company’s easy-to-eatLeibniz  Choco Stick concept from last year is the introduction of Choco Sticks Dark.

Bahlsen will also be adding milk chocolate to itsLeibniz Erdnuss Spass biscuit, which marries theLeibniz biscuit with caramelized peanuts.

These and several other new product launches coincide with the company’s 120th anniversary, which, among other promotions, also involves a makeover of its packaging design.

The dark blue and gold block packaging “underscores the premium character” of the company’s products. It will also feature the tag line, “Premium quality since 1889.”

When speaking of premium, it would be difficult not to include Valhrona, the French producer of rare origin and fine chocolates. It too revealed a new logo, one that features a new, stylized version of a cocoa flower.

Naturally, the new logo is featured prominently in the company’s new retailGran Crusline, which come in square-tile shapes and feature origin chocolates in six dark and two milk chocolate flavors.

Valhrona’sGourmet Creationsline uses fourGran Cruschocolates – Jivara, Manjari, Caraibe and Guanaja and adds pecans, orange hazelnuts and cocoa nibs respectively to them to produce added flavor profiles.

Of course, one can’t discuss premium confections without mentioning Kambly, the Swiss-based manufacturer. At ISM, the company introduced the Feuill d’Or, the lightest fine biscuit in the world, weighing just 1.7 grams.

The wafer-thin crispy biscuit features a sprinkling of lightly roasted and caramelized hazelnut pieces in a delicate golden leaf shape that is accented by a shimmer of a chocolate stripe.

Although it’s not often consumers associate premium with a gummy and jelly manufacturer, Mederer Corp., which sellsTrolli gummy candies worldwide (excluding North America), happens to be one of those candy makers who can make that claim.

In keeping with a global trend on using healthier ingredients, such as fruit juice, (See Category Closeup article on p. 36) as well as the trend toward filled gummies, Mederer Corp. rolled out a broad range of new items, includingTrolli Citrus Pur andTrolli Beeren Traum. Each item contains 25% fruit juice in the filling. Mederer also introducedTrolli Puzzlebaum, which includes different gummy shapes that consumers must piece together to form gummy trees. Additionally, it introducedTrolli Cherry and Chilli gummies, which combine the taste of red hot chilli and fresh cherries.

Clearly, as consumers anxiously await government actions to stabilize the economic crisis, they can still take solace in candy makers providing them with a choice of better-for-you, great tasting and even indulgent treats. More importantly, these won’t cost them their life savings.

Vadim Cherkasov of Chocolia with editor Bernard Pacyniak at ISM.

New in town

Despite the recession and despite the anxiety, there are always entrepreneurs willing to demonstrate their resolve and pluck in the confectionery industry. Take Vadim Cherkasov from Chocolia, Ltd. (, a newly established company based in London with operations in Lvov, Ukraine.

Cherkasov, who formerly worked for AVK, one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the Ukraine, admits he signed onto the ISM show late. Nevertheless, even with limited promotional materials and samples, Cherkasov sought to make the best of his pioneering presence, confident his company can carve out a niche as a supplier of premium truffles, pralines and hollow seasonal products by being competitive in price and superior in quality.

Although the world’s not his oyster yet, Cherkasov and his colleagues understand the benefits of using state-of-the-art processing equipment to increase efficiency and flexibility and combine it with a bit of ingenuity in offering unique packaging (wood, leather, tinplate).

And despite not having the best booth position at ISM, Cherkasov came away hopeful that his first show appearance would not be his last. In this period of “hunkering down,” amidst industries everywhere, it’s good to see confectionery stirs the heart of entrepreneurs. We wish you luck, Cherkasov.Vadim Cherkasov of Chocolia with editor Bernard Pacyniak at ISM.