We're now just a couple of months away from the annual ISM trade fair, taking place at Koelnmesse, Germany, at the end of January (31 January to 3 February).
Held in conjunction with ProSweets Cologne, the event is an important business hub for the confectionery and snacking sectors – this year's event (its 50th anniversary edition) saw some 37,000 visitors from 148 countries in attendance, as well as more than 1,700 exhibitors from 76 countries.
As with so much of business these days, COVID-19 is likely to have a bearing on the upcoming event, however the organisers are confident that it can be as successful as in previous years, thanks to the rollout of a number of additional health and safety measures and digital support platforms.
As Anne Schumacher, vice president food and food technology, Koelnmesse, explains, while numbers are expected to be down marginally on past years, the response from the industry has been strong. "Apart from a few cancellations, almost all important market leaders will be taking part again," she says.
"Overall, exhibitors from 59 countries have registered. In addition to Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, Poland, France, the Netherlands and Greece are among the countries represented most strongly at ISM in terms of area booked."
The event will welcome country pavilions from Latvia, Portugal and Thailand for the first time, as well as new exhibitors from Australia, Greece, Romania, Lithuania and Poland.
"We are noticing that especially in challenging times like these, ISM remains a central platform for many companies, enabling them to present their products to a wide trade audience, as well as push their export business," says Schumacher.
Travel restrictions are likely to still be in place in a number of markets by the time ISM rolls around, but Koelnmesse believes it has a solution – Matchmaking 365+, a platform that provides companies exhibiting at ISM with additional digital opportunities for establishing contacts and networking with customers.
"Via Matchmaking 365+, ISM exhibitors can thus also reach trade visitors beyond the physical exhibition dates of ISM 2021," says Schumacher. "In addition to conventional forms of establishing contacts, the platform now also enables meetings by video, chat or audio.
"This opens up the possibility to the participants of the trade fair to establish business contacts prior to the opening of the fair. Product presentations and new products can also be presented within a digital Exhibitor Showroom."
ISM will not be the first time such digital support platforms have been introduced – the Kind und Jugend trade fair moved entirely online earlier this year, as did video game fair gamescom; the latter drew an audience of around two million spectators for its opening night. For ISM, the Matchmaking 365+ platform is already live, having launched in October 2020.
Ensuring A Safe Visit
For those planning to attend in person, Koelnmesse is pulling out all the stops to ensure that visitors can enjoy a successful, safe business environment.
"Koelnmesse has developed an extensive package of measures under the hashtag #B-SAFE4business, which ensures that attending the trade fair is safe for all participants," says Schumacher. "We have summarised measures to protect exhibitors and trade visitors under the four headings: 'visit safe', 'show safe', 'meet safe' and 'stay safe'. These headings regulate aspects such as the safe interaction of participants at the trade fair and will ensure that companies and industry professionals can decide to attend the event with full confidence."
This also includes additional precautionary measures across the trade fair grounds, including the placement of disinfection dispensers at all essential points of the grounds, the regular cleaning and disinfection of washrooms and other contact surfaces as well as the implementation of ultra-modern ventilation systems, which enable a separate air intake and output.
"The health and safety of our exhibitors and visitors takes top priority," says Schumacher. "We will thus do our utmost to organise a corona-compatible and safe ISM 2021. It is, however, important that we satisfy the expectations of our customers. The industry and trade are indicating to us that business has to continue in spite of COVID-19 and they are particularly looking forward to face-to-face meetings after a long time without trade shows, because business relations cannot exist long-term without them.
"In addition, trying out products is essential for the buyers for their decision-making process. After all, who wants to just look at sweets and snacks digitally?"
For more information, visit www.ism-cologne.com.
© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.