Flexitarian. White chocolate. Ethical marketing. Retro. The four S’s (Snacking, sharing, simplicity, sustainability). Technology. Those are just some of the buzz words and trends that I came across at this year’s International Sweets and Biscuit (ISM) Fair in Cologne, Germany.

As usual, the gathering of confectioners and buyers from around the world was impressive. After all, anytime you can boast of 1,476 confectionery and snack manufacturers and marketers from 68 countries enticing nearly 35,000 buyers with their wares, it’s a sweet thing.

Of course, there’s been consolidation at ISM, both from majors participating as well as from the size of the booths within the show. Yet, despite the shrinkage, it’s still the biggest global confectionery show in the world. And as Bastian Fassin, chairman of the International Confectionery Fair Taskforce (AISM) and chairman of Katjes, points out, “The high quality of the trade visitors is what makes the trade fair the decisive hub for the worldwide trade and thus sets important impulses for the domestic and export business.”

As usual, everyone at the Fair is either showcasing or searching for the “next big thing,” although impulse sounds a bit more current. Not surprisingly, that next big impulse could be a “smaller, simpler impulse,” or just a revitalized return to an “old impulse.” Or as the winners of the New Product Showcase demonstrated, which featured more than 100 display cases of new launches submitted by candy and snack manufacturers, it can be just a slightly different impulse.

Naturally, it’s important to remind readers that the judging came from nearly 80 international journalists attending the show, and not consumers. Whether these products attract the public’s eye remains to be seen. They did, nonetheless, win over professionals tracking the industry.

Given the preoccupation with snacking in the media —as well as in offices, homes and just about everywhere — it’s not unusual that this year’s first prize went to a snack product: Intersnack Knabber Gebäck GmbH & Co. KG’s Pop Corners. Golden corn, popped slowly and carefully into crispy triangles and finished with tasty seasoning — it’s the new way to enjoy popcorn. And, it comes in two varieties: sweet and sea salt.

Second prize went to Belgian chocolate producers Belfine BVBA for its “Finger Pup’pets.” The tasty chocolate and carefully created characters provide a whimsical sweet treat for children and adults alike.

Third place went to the jolly “Thumbs Up”- shaped biscuits dubbed “Likies.” Produced by the German baked-goods company Verdener Keks- und Waffelfabrik Hans Freitag, the crispy little biscuits with their friendly message are easy to befriend. Moreover, they epitomize one of the trends, Small Bites, highlighted by Innova Market Insights during their Sweet Trends presentation at ISM.

The Dutch market research company identified 10 top trends currently dominating the confectionery industry:

  1. Cocoa beans:   It’s all about the bean! New origins, raw cocoa for health, premium beans used for improved flavor, Fairtrade certification, slivers and whole beans used for texture.
  2. New shapes: Thinking outside the traditional chocolate square with a variety of new shapes and sensations. Slim thins, cubes, sticks, big bubbles and so forth are shaping the global chocolate market.
  3. No added sugar: No added sugar claims are gaining momentum worldwide for many product categories, including chocolate, where stevia is finding more applications.
  4. Artisan: Accelerating growth for super premium, artisan chocolate product ranges continues as consumers demand even more indulgence. Artisan claims are being used by both small- and large-scale manufacturers.
  5. Savory flavors:Some of the world’s leading chefs are using savory flavors for desserts and this trend is infiltrating the chocolate category, with many herbs and spices being used for flavor differentiation.
  6. High cocoa percentage: Cocoa percentage specification has been around for some time for chocolate. Today, the number sign signifies the depth and intensity of flavor.
  7. For the home chocolatier:DIY chocolate-making kits are emerging and cooking chocolate has become increasingly more specialized and premium in nature, often chef-endorsed, to dovetail with increased home baking.
  8. Minis and bites: The bite-size chocolates category is outperforming most other chocolate types in many countries, thanks largely to a shift toward more sharing formats.
  9. Ethical: Chocolate product launch activity positioned on an ethical platform continues to experience growth, along with the development of other similar schemes to Fairtrade.
  10. Seasonal and limited edition: Seasonality and limited-edition product ranges are not new to the global chocolate market. Nonetheless, they have become critical avenues for companies to introduce a new product experience to the consumer and maintain engagement with a brand.

As mentioned earlier, many of these reflect a continuing evolution of trends from the past, as well as the present. With regards to the buzz words mentioned earlier, which interlope and intersect with the Innova trends, I’d like to provide you with some examples.

First, flexitarian, or vegetarians that eat meat occasionally. Actually, that’s the target market for Katjes’ Veggie line of gummies and jellies, says Tobias Bachmuller, managing partner of Katjes. As he pointed out, although vegetarians account for only 6-7 percent of the population in Germany, many women, particularly those in the 25 -34 range, only eat meat once or twice a week.

These de facto flexitarians are fueling Katjes’ success with its new Veggie line, which contains no animal gelatin. Currently, two-thirds of all the company’s products are “Veggie,” with the eventual target being 75 percent, says Bachmuller.

This April, the company will be rolling out a new line of jellies under a Grunschwabel moniker or “Green Beak”, which will feature a parrot with a green beak touting such flavor varieties as pineapple, passion fruit and cactus fiber.

The move toward vegan candies hasn’t gone unnoticed by others in the industry. Hebert Mederer, president and ceo of the Mederer Group, acknowledged his company is also rolling out a line of gummies and jellies sans animal-based gelatin. Better-for-you confections are familiar territory for Mederer, as evidenced by the functional and veggie gummies being produced in China by the company.

But for Mederer, gummies must also translate into fun. And the newly launched Trolli Blob, which features a flavored fruit gum “blob” augmented by two large open marshmallow eyes, certainly makes young and old smile. And yes, it reminds those of us with a few notches on our belt of the 1958 movie, The Blob, which, if memory serves me correctly, was Steve McQueen’s debut performance as a film actor.

Another cute and creative debut from the Mederer Group this year is the Trolli Big Bear. Mederer takes technology to another level with a multi-stage manufacturing procedure that creates a stand-up marshmallow-textured bear with a fruit gum nose and belly.

But one would be remiss not to talk about chocolate. As mentioned earlier, several companies, beginning with the largest cocoa and chocolate processor, Barry Callebaut, and continuing with a broad range of large and midsized manufacturers (Yildiz Holdings, Cemoi, ICAM, Rausch Schokoladen, etc.) are touting their efforts to help cocoa farmers grow more and better cocoa while helping them in their communities.

One of the more interesting ideas regarding sustainability came from my visit to Rausch Schokoladen, where Jurgen Rausch, the managing director, talked of having webcams on plantations where the company sources its cacao.

Rausch, who’s been personally involved with farmers and cooperatives for dozens of years, recognizes that his relationship and passion for fine-flavored cocoa beans, which is being passed on to his son, Robert, takes more time to explain to consumers than a stamp of approval from the mainstream certification groups.

“It’s a challenge to inform customers and consumers about how we source our cocoa beans,” he says. To address that issue, the company has launched a new marketing campaign that will make it “easier to understand what we do.”

It also will certainly be instrumental in letting consumers know about a “special cacao” from a new origin that will be exclusive to Rausch and which is set to debut in two to three months. Rausch also indicated that “the time is coming” for the company to enter the U.S. market, although he didn’t divulge any additional details.

And it certainly looks like the time is coming for white chocolate. Loacker, which announced the establishment of a U.S. subsidiary at ISM (see sidebar), also revealed the launch of a white chocolate version of its Rose of the Dolemite praline. And ICAM (featured last month in Candy Industry Magazine) has reported continuing growth of its white chocolate products to both manufacturers and retailers.

Then there’s technology, which has always played a role in new product launches at ISM. A visit to SMET revealed a capability that allows anyone from pastry chefs to foodservice suppliers to create intricately designed decorations.

The 2(5)D production line can produce logos etched in chocolate smaller than an average-sized thumbnail. The proprietary technology, supplied by SDL Technology, enables customers to personalize cakes, ice creams, as well as a whole range of products.

Again, it represents another breakthrough for the 50-year-old Belgium company that refuses to let size interfere with innovation. Of course, that innovation can sometime resemble a “back to the future” movement.

Take Wagner Pralinen GmbH. This 120-year-old company, which emphasizes hand craftsmanship and top quality products, debuted its new line of petit fours at the show. Citing the fact that these classic mini treats were “hard to find” in the marketplace, Jorg Wagner, managing director, saw an opportunity.

Noting that his company had both the experience and know-how, Wagner oversaw an expansion of the company’s facility to accommodate additional production and packaging capabilities. The midsized family-run company is “flexible and quick to market,” which remains the key to its success. Wagner hopes to expand on those traits through exports.

As for the reaction to the company’s new line of petit fours, he said buyers were both surprised and interested. And that seems to be a lesson one can take back from ISM this year: there’s room for large and small operators in the world of confections. Creativity doesn’t belong to any specific confectionery category nor to billion-dollar multinationals. It resides within artisan chocolatiers and fledgling entrepreneurs more often than not. And ISM provides a venue for showcasing those innovations.


Loacker opens U.S. subsidiary

During the ISM show, Ulrich Zuenelli, chairman of Loacker, the Italian-based wafer and chocolate products manufacturer, revealed to Candy Industry Magazine that the company had just established a U.S. subsidiary in New York City.

In doing so, it hired two national sales managers — Darius Rockware and Garey Logan — who will supervise the East and West regions of the country respectively. The move signals a major commitment by Loacker to the U.S. marketplace.

Christoph Tribus, who’s been doing the groundwork for Loacker’s new subsidiary during the past two years, will head up Loacker USA as its president. The subsidiary will establish a warehouse in New Jersey as well as expand the brand’s broker network in the United States.

“It’s a big country with different trade channels and we’re looking to make a smooth transition, taking one bite at a time,” Tribus says. It will also expand its marketing presence, particularly in the area of social media networking, focusing on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

“We have a growing fan base and we want to share news and recipes with them,” he adds.

The company also looks to increase its trade efforts, from sampling to exhibiting at shows. As Tribus emphasizes, “We’re not going to cut corners; we’re here for the long-term.”

Zuenelli, who’s always recognized the importance and significance of the U.S. market to Loacker, says it simply was time to make the move. Moreover, as he points out, 67 percent, or two-thirds, of the company’s sales come from outside of Italy.

In addition to North America, there’s been double-digit growth for the company in the Asian Pacific, European and South American markets. The “outstanding” surge in global sales has compelled the company to build a third facility adjoining its plant in Heinfels, Austria. That represents a €70 million investment. 

Anyone familiar with Loacker products knows the company’s fanaticism about quality, insisting on only natural and high-end ingredients. There’s more than enough evidence out there to suggest that U.S. consumers want the same; the Great Recession having sharpened their purchasing skills and selections. Always conscious of value, shoppers today want quality, transparency and great taste in their confections and snacks. In other words, the new value is premium and Loacker is making a move to be in that mix.


Clarification:In last month’s issue, Herm Rowland Sr. was incorrectly identified as the inventor ofJelly Belly jelly beans. David Klein invented the concept in 1976. He approached the Herman Goelitz Candy Co. (now Jelly Belly Candy Co.) with the idea and it began producing the premium beans.