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ISM 2022 shows that international events are a necessity
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ISM 2022 shows that international events are a necessity

During four days Cologne hosted the 51st edition of ISM. As expected, the number of participants didn’t reach any record and can’t be compared to previous editions. However, the show did attract around 15,000 trade visitors from 96 countries. Also, when I visited, I did notice that the 2022 vintage was actually interesting. 


A good restart 

Despite the pandemic, instead of postponing or cancelling the event, the Koelnmesse decided to go through and hold the ISM this year. For Gerald BösePresident and Chief Executive Officer of Koelnmesse GmbH the event showed that trade events are feasible and necessary:  "We are delighted that the restart of the leading global trade fair for sweets and snacks was successful amid these challenging times. This is not least also thanks to the exhibiting companies, who took part in the 51st edition of the trade fair. Of course, we weren't expecting a superlative trade fair or new records, but the fact that ISM 2022 took place underscores once more the fact that trade fairs with a clear business focus can be staged safely also in pandemic times and can offer their respective industries the urgently needed platform for the development and expansion of international business. The leading global trade fair for sweets and snacks is thus sending an important signal to the sweets and snacks industry, also to the entire trade fair business in terms of confidence and optimism." 

And the statistics tend to confirm this statement. 78% of trade visitors came from abroad with a strong participation from professionals from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Turkey. Growth was particularly registered from Eastern Europe and Russia. Beyond Europe the trade visitors predominantly came from the Near and Middle East, but also from the USA as well as from Central and South America.


My 20/CENT about ISM 2022

A necessity

In my opinion, the decision to maintain the date and hold the ISM as one of the first international trade shows of the year was a bold but also necessary decision. It was bold as understandably; many exhibitors and visitors would criticize the decision and not show up. But it was certainly necessary to demonstrate a few things. 

Firstly, it demonstrated that organizing an international event is possible when the proper measures are taken. I honestly felt safe and despite the constraints of social distancing, masks and all, my visit and experience at the event were smooth. 

Secondly, I believe that the event itself demonstrated its necessity in the calendar. If an organizer keeps cancelling, or postponing his events, how can trade professionals meet? They will try to find other ways such as online tools or other competitive events in the calendar.  Obviously online meetings or platforms aren’t ideal but as a professional, you can’t wait and pause your business indefinitely. Waiting another year was not an option for ISM. It would have meant giving opportunities to other events, or letting the industry professionals start questioning themselves about the role and necessity of the event in their business plan. By taking place, ISM confirms that despite all, it facilitates encounters and functions as a platform for the sweets and snacks industry. 

Furthermore, Koelnmesse demonstrated that the show evolved and is now a hybrid platform. If you couldn’t or didn’t want to attend physically, you could still participate online. Although, I believe the food industry still has a long way to go. I participated to different hybrid shows and I can tell that food professionals still need to learn how to use the online tools. Matchmaking and using the app in advance to prepare for a show, browsing exhibitor products or even simply scanning the badge to match with a new contact on the exhibition ground, are habits that still need to be learned.


Quality of contacts and content

But let’s move on to another essential aspect of a tradeshow: the content. The question is also whether this year’s ISM was worth it. Well, I believe it was. For exhibitors, I already mentioned in a previous post that the ones with the right mindset had a fruitful experience. (https://20100retail.be/en/articles/660/20cent-mood-it-is-a-question-of-mindset). The volumes and number of visitors was not to be compared to previous years, yet many mentioned that business with old and new contacts did happen. And that’s obviously an essential item at a trade show. 

But I also noticed, like many others, that since the number of participants was inferior to previous editions, I could have more time for qualitative conversations. Sometimes you need to fight for attention, or rush through meetings if you want to make it to the next one. This year was not the case and it was a nicer and more productive experience. 

Finally, I will not forget to mention that I found interesting content. As usual, I could visit dedicated areas developed around various themes and highlighting trends of the industry: Packaging, sustainability, innovations, ingredients…you could find quite some interesting data and information. 

In conclusion, I will tell you this: safety, content, business opportunities…all the elements of a successful event were present at this year’s event. It was good to see the industry meeting again and I hope that many other trade events will follow the example and show the vital role they play in their respective industries. 



PS: The next ISM is scheduled to take place from 29th of January to the 1st of February 2023.


PS2: check out my next article about the trends I noted during my visit 






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