Groundhog Day at the ISM 2020

We paid a visit to the world’s biggest candy store again: the Internationale Süßwaren- und Snackmesse (ISM) in Cologne. Most of the innovations that we found on the show floor were building on themes we came across earlier, and some were taking them to new extremes.

Report summary

Stating that everything was the same as before is perhaps a bit harsh. It surely does not do justice to all the efforts that confectionery and snack producers have put into their new product development. But in terms of innovation, this year’s ISM tradeshow further built upon the trends seen in prior years.

The emphasis on less sugar, ‘free-from’ labeling, healthier ingredients, functional ingredients even, more convenience, more indulgence, addressing the ‘restless palette syndrome,’ and increased attention to origin still meets the growing demand from food retailers and consumers worldwide for differentiating products. It is good to see that new products and marketing pitches tailored to these trends are gaining traction.

New Innovations Seeking Boundaries

While many producers have been innovating in familiar directions, we did of course find some noteworthy exceptions. The new ‘new products’ so to say. These innovations have one thing in common: they are taking the known innovative trends to extremes.

1. No limits to ‘restless palette’ – If dairy-based proteins, quinoa, sweet-savory combinations, or wasabi are getting too mainstream for you, how about onion-based cheesecakes, charcoal crackers, vegetable grissini, cricket chocolate, or egg-based brownies? There is no holding back on fantasy when it comes down to creating extraordinary taste sensations it seems.

2.Shiniest of products – Next to extraordinary tastes, appearance is gaining ground. Judging by several new products, glimmer and glitter are the thing for 2020. Just a tiny bit more bling and you could actually see your reflection in chocolates, nuts, gummy bears, or cake toppings.

3.Healthier within the limits of tastiness – The first Nutri-Scores popped up on the show floor. Notably, cookies face an uphill battle in the Nutri-Score rankings, with the average cookie coming in at an E thanks to its core ingredients: fat and sugar. We came across a few Ds and the occasional B. Whether these ratings come at a price, we diplomatically leave up to you to taste.

4.The biggest hit of this ISM edition must have been the personalized Toblerone and Oreo bars of Mondelēz by Emagination Store. They sold out already on Sunday, the first day of the ISM. Now you may ask yourself: what does that have to do with seeking boundaries? Well, apart from the crowd control needed in hall 11.1, these personalized bars normally trade at a whopping 150% premium over standard retail prices. And they sell in the millions. Who says consumers are price sensitive!

Just to be clear, we actively searched for innovations across the eight halls. They were there, but quite frankly, it was like searching for needles in a haystack. The ISM is what you would expect of a candy store: indulgence comes first, second, and third. Innovation takes place in the margins, but is essential to satisfy food retailers’ quest for differentiation on their confectionery and snack shelves.

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