The growing size and influence of the annual ProWein trade show offers a unique chance for attendees and exhibitors to reflect on their own values and competitive advantage.
Most people can remember their first day at a new school: seemingly huge institution, unfamiliar setting, where everyone seems to know each other, and apparently everyone except you knows their way around.
For first-time visitors, ProWein must seem like similarly intimidating experience. The show is now reaching gargantuan proportions: this year organisers Messe Dusseldorf declared 6,870 exhibitors from 64 countries, and an epic 60,000 visitors over its three days. From the vantage point of the Wine Intelligence stand in Hall 9, near the north entrance, the notion of unprecedented visitor numbers seemed very plausible, especially on the Monday and Tuesday.
Our messages at the show this year focused around boosting understanding: of more conventional things such as markets, consumers, routes to market. Beyond this, our task this year was to provide tools for working out what you as a producer / brand owner / intermediary are really good at, and how to use that goodness to enhance your performance.
To that end we have launched our Global Wine Brand Power Index 2018, which offers a formula for understanding the power of your brand in a given market (and in the top 15 global wine markets collectively), which was the subject of Lulie Halstead’s seminar on the Tuesday. We have also been reflecting on long-term trends associated with our category: what demographic and technological changes are doing to wine consumer behaviour, and how this is manifesting in growing franchises for sparkling wine, rose and more premium products.
ProWein is also a great place to do observational research on what the wine industry is banking on for the future – and what it is doing less of. For instance, the low/no alcohol category is still seeing innovation, but there seemed to be fewer new projects emerging in this category in 2018 compared with previous years. In labelling, the fashion of the past few years towards “extreme” distinctiveness – using very disruptive colours, images and icons – appears to be in retreat, and a (non-scientific) scan of labels on display across the halls indicated that producers are opting increasingly for a more reassuring, central-to-the-category approach.
Within branding, some producers are thinking through the value of aligning with other “brand name” elements that also carry equity. Some, like the alignment of a brand with a celebrity endorsement or ownership, are now well established; further developments in this area are brands or appellations aligned with popular tourist destinations, such as the successful Portuguese brand Porta 6 or the new Wine of Origin Cape Town appellation.
German wine was a theme of this year’s show and there were plenty of crowds and events in the Germany hall this year, signalling a renewing of confidence in the country’s ability to produce high quality wine that can find an audience in export markets. However, the talk on the stands was less about the wine, and more about the growing power and influence of the major German wine companies in the world of sparkling wine, with the announcement of Henkell’s purchase of a majority stake in Grupo Freixenet dominating the conversation.
Final mention must go to Italy. This one country sent 1,700 exhibitors to ProWein, more than France (1,550) or Germany (990), a tenfold increase in a decade. What is driving this? In part, necessity: Italian producers have become more mindful of the need to build exports and compete effectively in their main markets – and of course it helps that Germany is their number one export destination. Italy is also building effective franchises in categories that are very much of the moment: sparkling wine, aromatic whites, lighter / more complex reds and a phenomenal growth in organic production, which aligns with a growing consumer need for sustainable products in markets such as Sweden and Germany.