Despite concerns of the pandemic, Koelnmesse proved that it was possible to have a productive, safe, in-person event with ISM and ProSweets boasting “quality conversations” and visits. Kiran Grewal reports.

For the around 200 exhibitors from 21 countries, ProSweets, which was held under special circumstances from 30 January to 2 February, proved to be a reliable industry get-together for the suppliers of the sweets and snacks industry. Around 6,000 trade visitors from around 60 countries came to Cologne over the four days of the trade fair.  

“ProSweets Cologne proved itself to be an important business event in spite of the difficult framework conditions. In conjunction with ISM, the international supplier fair provides an holistic overview of the sweets and snacks industry and sets important impulses in terms of raw materials and ingredients, packaging, packaging machines as well as machines and systems. We were aware that we wouldn’t match the number of visitors at the previous event, but the fact that ProSweets Cologne took place was of great significance for the industry and furthermore also underlines that trade fairs with a clear business focus can be conducted safely in pandemic times. At this point my thanks go to all of the exhibiting companies and partners, who actually made ProSweets Cologne 2022 possible,” explains Gerald Böse, President and Chief Executive Officer of Koelnmesse GmbH. 

Speaking to Kennedy’s Confection, Koelnmesse Director, Guido Hentschke sheds some light on what it took to bring all of these elements together in time for the show: “The preparations for this year’s show were much more intense. Because of the pandemic, we had to plan the fair quite differently from the way we are used to. Wider aisles and other COVID-19 measures had to be implemented in order to create a safe show for all participants. Together with about 1,200 exhibiting companies at ISM and ProSweets Cologne, Koelnmesse has sent a clear signal to the market that trade fairs and personal contacts are important and feasible even in pandemic times. Koelnmesse, in close cooperation with all participants, has shown that it is important to physically bring supply and demand together, even or especially in pandemic times. 15,000 visitors at ISM from 96 countries and around 6,000 visitors at ProSweets Cologne from 60 countries have confirmed that we made the right decision here.” 

As at the autumn events, Koelnmesse’s safety and hygiene concept proved itself and ensured the smooth running of the trade fair. Participants, both visitors and exhibitors, were asked to wear face masks at all times, and were regularly inspected to ensure they were doing so properly. The fact that ProSweets Cologne took place was of great significance for the industry and also underlines that trade fairs with a clear business focus can be conducted safely in pandemic times. 

“They came armed with their bars and tablets, asking for advice on wrapping!”

Ruben Taks, International Sales Engineer at Lareka Confectionery Equipment

It was to be expected that footfall would be lower than previous years, and although exhibitors had their doubts at the beginning of the show, many found that despite less visitors, they had more quality conversations with serious customers.  

Lareka, a regular at the ProSweets exhibition, says the company was heartened that those visitors who did make the effort to attend were really serious and keen on finding packaging solutions. “This year’s event was a success for the company, although it was disappointing to have reduced visitor numbers – mostly those from outside of Europe,” Ruben Taks, International Sales Engineer at Lareka Confectionery Equipment told Kennedy’s Confection.

“Overall, we were very happy with the visitors we spoke to at the show this year,” says Ruben. “Visitors this year seemed to know what they were looking for – we found that many had already seen the machines on our social media outlets such as YouTube and Instagram. They came armed with their bars and tablets, asking for advice on wrapping!” 

Guido affirms: “In 2020, we had more than 18,000 trade visitors from over 100 countries come to ProSweets Cologne, with around 70% coming from abroad. We knew that it would be less this year because of the special conditions. But overall, we were satisfied that about 6.000 visitors from 60 countries came to this year’s show. They were able to hold high-quality and more intensive discussions. We knew that under these circumstances we could not meet all expectations, but we very much hope that ProSweets Cologne can take place again in 2023 under normal conditions and that we can thus offer our customers the usual platform to support their business.” 

In-person events invaluable to the confectionery industry

Throughout the pandemic, confectionery professionals in all sectors adapted their business models to suit digital audiences, so they were able to demonstrate their machinery and processes to their customers safely. The events industry also looked for online methods, hoping to bring together the industry through a digital platform. This worked fantastically during the peak of the pandemic, but attendees of ProSweets and ISM expressed their enthusiasm for meeting face-to-face and the importance of physical presence once again. “From the very beginning, being close to the customer has been one of the most important instruments for communicating and explaining our technical innovations without ‘friction losses’. It also helps us to recognise changing market requirements and new trends,” says Rainer Runkel, Managing Director of WDS. 

Lareka had two machines in operation on its stand – its two biggest selling machines, the BTB25 and NP60, the company confirmed. As a machine manufacturer, Lareka says it is focused on the packaging process. Craft chocolate makers, however, are attracted by the end result: a chocolate bar in a premium wrapping that catches the eye. Lareka’s compact packaging machines could be seen packaging chocolate bars live at the stand. “We wanted to be able to show visitors the real-life end results from our packaging solutions and this really seems to have paid off for us,” says Ruben. 

Steffen Hamelmaan, Marketing Manager at Theegarten Pactec, also told us: “Despite the difficult general conditions, our participation in ProSweets Cologne was a great success. We’re happy that we could present Theegarten-Pactec’s latest innovations to a live audience again. And we are thankful to all our customers, friends and interested parties who came in such large numbers to visit our trade fair stand this year. It was a pleasure to talk to everyone in person again! 

“ProSweets was, apart from Gulfood Manufacturing in November 2021, the first international trade fair in which Theegarten-Pactec participated again for two years. Due to the current situation in connection with coronavirus, we obviously attended this trade fair with some doubts. The expected decrease in visitor numbers compared to pre-pandemic times turned out to be true. However, the visitors who finally made their way to Cologne came with clear topics, ideas and project inquiries in their minds. As a result, the quality of the discussions was very high, which makes us optimistic for the follow-up business and the future in general. And our exhibit, the flexible CHS high-performance packaging machine for chocolate products in different folding types, was met with great interest,” he says.

Winning gold at ISM

The Cabosse praline by Kortrijk Chocolatier Vandenbulcke won gold at the ISM exhibition in Cologne. The unique filling of this upcycled praline is made of the flavoursome white fruit pulp surrounding the cocoa beans that is usually discarded during the chocolate production process. This means the Cabosse praline helps to reduce waste and has a positive impact on the planet.

Two years after winning the silver for Petit Melo, Chocolatier Vandenbulcke has now been awarded the highest prize in Cologne. “The new gold medal shows that our family-run authentic chocolate making business is committed to innovation and quality. It is the perfect reward for all the hard work our entire team puts in day after day,” Chocolatier Vandenbulcke spokesperson Nicolas Degryse says. 

“Cabosse is the French word for cocoa pod. It was the perfect name for our new creation, because this praline really makes the most of all the goodness of the entire fruit,” Nicolas Degryse adds. “We have been committed to sustainable chocolate and better conditions for our cocoa farmers for many years. When you think that normally only the cocoa beans themselves are used to make chocolate and the remaining 70% of the pod simply ends up being discarded, that does not match that sustainable philosophy at all. So we decided to use the delicious white pulp surrounding the cocoa beans for the Cabosse praline’s filling. It means that we make optimal use of our raw ingredients and the farmers get extra income on top of what they earn from the cocoa beans.” 

For the praline’s development, Vandenbulcke used Cabosse Naturals, a Barry Callebaut brand that produces 100% pure ingredients from the entire cocoa pod. The Cabosse praline is made of dark chocolate and is shaped like a cocoa pod. The filling has an intense, fruity flavour that is balanced by a fresh acidity.

The ISM jury evaluated hundreds of snacks and confectionery products and awarded the first prize to the Cabosse praline because of its unique taste and innovative minimum waste production process. The Cabosse will be available in-store from May 2022.

New digital networking possibilities

Digital opportunities were not completely omitted though. With its hybrid concept and the new, digital platform, ISM & ProSweets @home, from the third day onwards ProSweets Cologne offered the exhibitors, visitors and media representatives numerous new possibilities of coming into contact with partners, potential customers and interesting companies. Every on-site exhibitor was simultaneously represented on the platform with a digital showroom. 

In addition to the personal discussions and the extensive on-site event and congress programme, beyond the physical trade fair ProSweets Cologne also offers new digital networking options and digitally streamed contents such as expert lectures and presentations. 

The second edition of the future congress “#CONNECT2030 – The Future Summit for Sweets and Snacks – in transition” is also available on-demand and provides interesting insights into the themes resource conservation, CO2 reduction and the effects of climate change on the availability of raw materials. The digital ISM & ProSweets Cologne thus not only ensures an extended reach, but also gives all trade fair participants the opportunity to network, establish new contacts and call up contents they missed in person up until 30 April 2022. The ProSweets app, which was implemented parallel to the trade fair, also integrates new networking functions for the digital exchange, during and after the trade fair. 

So, with the success of this year’s show now behind us, what are the plans for next year? Guido says: “We will continue to focus on topics that are of interest for the industry. So, we will further develop the ingredients part of ProSweets Cologne and focus on new packaging trends and as well the sustainable production of sweets and snacks. The next step will be the activation of the registration documents for the 2023 fair. And of course, it is our aim to get more exhibitors and visitors involved again.

The next ProSweets Cologne is scheduled to take place from Sunday, 29.01.2023 to Wednesday, 01.02.2023. 

What events are coming up?

Food and Drink Expo
25-27 April
NEC, Birmingham, UK

Anuga FoodTec
26-29 April
Cologne, Germany

Sweets & Snacks Expo
24-26 May
Chicago, US

ProPack Asia
15-18 June
Bangkok, Thailand

Gulfood Manufacturing
8-10 November
Dubai World Trade Centre, UAE

Fi Europe & Hi Europe
6-8 December
Paris, France

Editorial contact:
Editor: Kiran Grewal