Posted on | December 30, 2013
Written by | W.R. Tish
Wine is art. Wine is food. Wine is passion. But wine is also a business. A business that gets bigger-faster-stronger and more global with every vintage. Fortunately, wine has a trade show—ProWein—that has kept pace with the industry.
Staged annually in Düsseldorf, Germany, and slated for March 23rd-25th this year, ProWein is celebrating two decades of dynamic growth under the direction of trade-show specialist firm Messe Düsseldorf. What began with 321 exhibitors and 1,517 visitors has bloomed—one might say boomed— into a mega-event with nearly 4,800 exhibitors (including 400 in spirits) and more than 45,000 visitors from nearly 50 countries.
Still, size alone is not what separates ProWein from other trade shows like Vinexpo, Vinitaly and the London Wine Fair. What really stands out is how ProWein’s frastructure and organization make the broad scope exceptionally manageable. The world of wine is not simply on display, it is easily grasped.
The Messe Düsseldorf facility, designed expressly to house trade shows, is like a huge campus. ProWein exhibitors are grouped sensibly by country of origin, in connected but distinct “halls” that are easy to navigate, with great ventilation and signage. The physical plan is enhanced by the website, where an interactive floor plan and database of products and exhibitors are searchable ahead of the show. The site also offers attendees “matchmaker” and “organizer” tools and a custom ProWein app. Advance planning has never been easier.
No doubt the mosaic of exhibitors represents the backbone of the show. But ancillary programs add a dose of pure discovery to the nuts and bolts of networking. The ProWein Forum hosts scores of expert-led seminars over the course of three days. The centralized Tasting Zone—dedicated to pure evaluation, with rows of self-pour bottles—this year will feature quality/price ratio as its theme. At the FIZZ Lounge in the Spirits Hall, mixologists will demonstrate trendy vegetable-based “garden drinks.” Another special section, “Wine’s Best Friends,” will showcase delicatessen specialties paired with simpatico wines. And the popular “World of Organic Wines” presents organic and sustainable producers from all over the world, illustrating how this trend has developed globally.
The deftly organized show works to keep any single sector from seeming dominant, while at the same time giving smaller exhibitors within each sector the sense of a level playing field. Think ProWein is all about German wine? Not at all. Last year more than 80% of the exhibitors and exhibit space were non-German. The highest number of exhibitors came from Italy, followed by France and Germany. But there were contingents as well from China, England, Brazil, Tunisia and Lebanon. New for 2014: a national group exhibit from Canada, plus, for the first time, Koshu wine from Japan.
When asked to summarize the factors fueling the show’s success, Michael Degen, Executive Director Messe Düsseldorf and Director ProWein 2014, cites, among others, the trade-only focus that “guarantees a professional working atmosphere.” He also notes the degree to which the show has become “a truly international platform,” thanks in large part to the show’s efficient structure.
That international platform helps attract company principals, and serves as the launch pad for many product debuts. Last year’s show included brand new wines from Freixenet and Trapiche, not to mention the official premiere of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s lauded 2012 Miraval Rosé. Those were just some of the conventional launches. Also on tap: an energy drink blended with Champagne; an organic wine spritzer; and a line of charity-driven Spanish wines featuring label art by celebrities.
Who should go to ProWein? Anyone looking to refresh, expand or extend one’s position in the wine business. Retailers, distributors, importers are natural candidates; also restaurant, hotel and chain buyers. Degen emphasizes that for Americans in the trade, the show provides “the opportunity to create a competitive advantage through its extraordinary international variety and unique and new products,” in spirits as well as in wine. Producers and associations find value as well; wine contingents from California, New York and the Pacific Northwest have used ProWein to open new accounts and markets abroad.
Perhaps ProWein’s greatest advantage is that built-in flexibility enables the show to grow methodically and logically. The last real growth spurt was for ProWein 2013, when two more halls were added, allowing about 800 more exhibitors. In order to meet the rising demand another expansion is planned for 2015.
This rising demand for space at ProWein is not just good news for the wine industry, but also a reaffirmation of the vitality of global business in general. In an age where communication can be brutally fast, there is still no substitute for face to face interaction, and no event in wine allows greater opportunities to expand contacts or access new ideas.
Having attended ProWein 2013, I can attest that the organization, international balance and broad range of exhibitors stood out from every other wine trade show I have attended. (See the July 2013 Beverage Media; also online.) The business-first attitude was unmistakable, and the level of attendees’ interest palpable. Even given America’s famously structured distribution system, no matter what aspect of the trade you specialize in, ProWein is poised to deliver dozens of viable new leads. Exhibition space for 2014 sold out six months in advance; but ticket sales for trade guests are still open. Take advantage of this uniquely valuable show at prowein.com.
A Portrait in International Growth and Satisfaction
For more information, visit prowein.com or mdna.com. For details regarding 2014 tickets or exhibiting in 2015, contact Messe Düsseldorf North America: (312) 781-5180; fax (312) 781-5188; email email@example.com. For hotel and travel information, contact TTI Travel: (866) 674-347