At the end of January next year, the world's largest confectionery exhibition will take place in Cologne, Germany. Covering everything from chocolate to rice snacks, ISM 2019 will be the biggest event yet, with the exhibition space expanding by 8,500 square metres and around 1,700 exhibitors coming from 70 different countries.

Katharina C. Hamma, COO of Koelnmesse, explains what awaits both exhibitors and visitors in the interview below.

The countdown for ISM 2019 is on: What is the current registration status and what are your expectations in terms of the exhibitors for the coming trade fair?

We are delighted that six months before the opening of the fair over 90 percent of last year's exhibition space is already booked. Once again, a strong, international field of participants, comprising of around 1,700 exhibitors from around 70 countries, will be presenting themselves in Cologne with countless new products. Numerous market leaders have already registered as exhibitors for the coming trade fair, including for example United Confectioners from Russia, Barcel and Canel's from Mexico, Baronie from Belgium Ricola from Switzerland as well as Lambertz, Griesson - de Beukelaer, Krüger and Katjes from Germany. The signs are very good, and we are anticipating further growth. ProSweets Cologne - the international supplier fair for the sweets and snacks industry - will once again be staged parallel to ISM from 27 to 30 January 2019. Together both events cover the entire value chain of sweets production and sales at the same time and place – a worldwide unique constellation.

Which new aspects can the exhibitors and visitors expect at ISM 2019?

ISM has consistently further developed its alignment over the past years. There are also several innovations in 2019. In addition to the seven halls that previously accommodated the trade fair, in the coming year it is additionally being staged in Hall 3.1, directly next to the south entrance.  The exhibition space is increasing by a further 8,500 square metres up to 120,000 square metres.

As part of this growth, we are offering first-time exhibitors and group organisers further attractive placement options. Furthermore, this is going to be a plaza with live sweet productions and sampling as a central point of contact in the new hall. This open structure provides the visitors with a clearer overview, facilitates a smoother visitor flow, and optimises access to the adjacent exhibition halls. Hall 5.2 will additionally be upgraded and made even more thematically interesting for the visitors.

Our motto here was more visibility for important segments, as well as optimised routes. In this way, in addition to the Cologne Coffee Forum and the News Snacks Section right next to the entrance, the visitors can now also find the Expert Stage here with countless interesting lectures and a new food court with healthy snacks. Those who’d like to relax for a moment can take time out on the newly created plaza, which offers seating options and a food service area.

Can you already name famous exhibitors that have registered for the new hall?

We are delighted to announce the return of Cloetta Holland BV. With its product line-up that ranges from nougat, fruit gums, and wine gums through to toffee, chewing-gum and nuts, Cloetta is one of the leading sweets manufacturers in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Furthermore, we are looking forward to welcoming Korea's market leaders Crown Confectionery Co., Ltd as well as Haitai Confectionery and Foods Co., Ltd. at ISM 2019 in the new Hall. We were also able to win over Jalux Inc from Japan as a newcomer at ISM, who has directly booked 150 square metres for its product portfolio comprising of cream bonbons, puffed rice, popcorn, potato snacks and rice snacks. Last, but not least, Roshen Confectionery Corporation from the Ukraine has taken advantage of the opportunity of the new hall and has expanded its space from 40 up to 103 square metres compared to ISM 2018.

Moreover, with a pavilion from Canada, North America is represented more strongly at the trade fair again for the first time since 2014. The group organiser is the CFEA Canadian Food Exporters Association from Toronto, which among others is bringing exhibitors like the premium mint bonbon and sweets manufacturer Big Sky Brands Inc as well as the manufacturer of high-quality bakery products, Give & Go Prepared Foods Corp, to Cologne with them.

Which trends and themes are you expecting at the coming ISM?

As the leading global trade fair for sweets and snacks, ISM covers the entire product palette of the sweets and snacks industry and offers the appropriate offer for each visitor. Whereas it is not purely a product show, its prime aim is to depict the current trends and themes of the industry. Whether vegetarian and vegan, gluten and lactose-free, sugar and fat reduced, traditional recipes or new interpreted one - there is something all.

The "New Product Showcase" event provides a perfect overview of the best innovations of ISM 2019. ISM not only presents new flavours or general food trends, but also the packaging and marketing trends of the industry and trade. For instance, to-go offers, individually and compactly packed items are still proving to be bestsellers. Consumers have increasingly less time and commute between home and the office, leisure activities and work, so in addition to sweets, savoury snacks are also in high demand. Visitors can find a concentrated offer of such items in the New Snacks Area in Hall 5.2.

Are there also opportunities of exhibiting for young companies that would like to enter the industry?

In order to present new, future-oriented ideas from the industry, we offer start-ups that have been founded within the last five years a presentation opportunity in the Start-up Area. In addition to a stand area measuring four square metres, the young companies can take part in a speed-dating session or present themselves in a start-up pitch on the Trend Stage. ISM newcomers can present their portfolio to a larger audience in the Newcomer Area and intensify their contacts within the industry.