Greetings everyone from Cologne, home to the 42nd International Sweets & Biscuits Fair commonly known as ISM.

By Bernie Pacyniak


Greetings everyone from Cologne, home to the 42nd International Sweets & Biscuits Fair commonly known as ISM. This is my 12th year attending the world’s largest confectionery confab, and it’s an event I always look forward to, even if it’s held during the dead of winter.

The show has undergone several changes during my dozen trips here, from new halls and the establishment of an ancillary confectionery supplier event, ProSweets, to the absence of many multinationals and increased influx of developing nations.

Throughout all these changes, the key driver behind the fair, which is all about providing a meeting place to do business for confectioners and buyers from around the globe, hasn’t changed. And each year, it’s a learning experience for yours truly.

This year was no exception. First, some trends as reported by the organizers of the fair, Koelnmesse and the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair Working Group. Calling the movement, “Purity,” fair organizers see a growing emphasis on accenting not only the origin, but the way the cocoa beans are obtained.

Hence, sustainability and certification, be it Fair Trade, UTZ or personal assurance, come into play. Although the trend is more pronounced in Europe, particularly for chocolate, it’s clear that this socially conscious connection plays a large role with consumers.

One can’t help but notice Hershey’s recent announcement that Hershey’s Bliss brand of candies will be made with Rainforest Alliance-certified chocolate by the end of the year.

It’s also interesting to note that two major German sugar confectionery companies, Katjes and Mederer, are emphasizing the purity and/or the sourcing of ingredients.

In meeting with Tobias Bachmüller - Katjes’ managing director, the head of one of Germany’s top chewy, licorice and fizzy powder candy companies - he emphasized the switch from gelatin to an “all-vegetarian” ingredient statement for some of its top-selling products.

As Bachmüller explains, although not everyone is a vegetarian, many women indicate they only eat meat once or twice weekly. Given that women are the target group for many of Katjes’ sweet products, the idea of a “green-ear rabbit seal” to indicate the lack of any meat-based ingredients (gelatin) reflects a fun way to accent its veggie roots.

Then there’s Mederer, who’s launched a line of gummies that tout Fair Trade sourcing of ingredients. The company also has introduced a line of Vitamin fruit gums. But Mederer wouldn’t be Mederer without offering chocolate-covered gummy rings, a treat no adult or child could resist, no matter how socially conscious they might be.

Trying to connect with consumers continues to be critically important for all confectionery companies. Consider ABICAB, the Brazilian Association of Cacao, Chocolates, Candies and By-Products Industry), which launched a new logo to emphasize their innovation, emotion and affection.

The rainbow-colored heart, reinforced by the tagline, “Made from the Heart,” emphasizes the idea that “Brazilians do everything with emotion and affection,” says Solange Isidoro, vice president of ABICAB, and export manager for Embare.

Brazilian companies that export will be using the logo on their packaging as part of a campaign to let consumers know that Brazil’s confectionery industry ranks third in the world.

Finally, it is Carnival (Pre-Lenten celebration) here in Cologne, but been rather busy to fully participate. Nonetheless, realize that confections always deliver a sense of Carnival, whether they’re consumed in Cologne or Chicago.