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?Michael Degen of Messe Düsseldorf on what makes ProWein so relevant for global wine trade

Published:  23 March, 2014

Anand Virmani talks to Michael Degen, the executive director Messe Düsseldorf, and the man responsible for ProWein about what makes it successful after 20 years.

Anand Virmani talks with Michael Degen, the executive director Messe Düsseldorf, and the man responsible for ProWein about what makes it successful after 20 years.

As ProWein enters its 20th year, what do you think makes it successful?

The special thing about ProWein is that if you look at the strategy and our way of organising it, we have not changed the basic concept over the past 20 years.  Right from the beginning we were thinking we should have a pretty strong focus on the international exhibitors.

ProWein is not a "German show", the domestic wine sector is fully represented but ProWein is not dominated by the domestic German wine sector.

Keep in mind that the basic group of exhibitors of ProWein 20 years ago were French winemakers...The French participation is still larger than the German participation. Meanwhile, the strongest participation is Italy with about 1,100 exhibitors.

How do you see the New World players like Australia and USA fitting into this space which has been dominated by the Old world?

To us, of course, it was logical to make strong efforts to bring them to Düsseldorf and to convince them about the value of the ProWein. It was important for us a couple of years ago when New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, all of which had a large presence at the LIWF, decided toinvest and try to go to Düsseldorf in a much larger way. It was a success and since then we have had strong participation from the new world.

When the buyers are here, then other exhibitors also want to come.

What do you think the value to international exhibitors participating in ProWein is?

The value we presume is that we have not only German but international buyers who come to Düsseldorf to order wine from international winemakers and that is, I believe, the added value -people get in Düsseldorf is the international overview.

What value do you create for smaller producers who can sometimes get sidelined and feel crowded out by the larger players at wine fairs?

The regular way small producers would get in is when they come under the roof of an organiser like Wine Australia. They might have for themselves, only 6 or so square meters, but they are under the roof of a very large, attractive and popular organisation... and that I believe is the important thing for them.

It is not necessarily so that when you are small, you don't have the chance to be successful.

You hosted Prowine China in 2013. How does that fit into the larger picture and does it impact the ProWein brand?

Messe Düsseldorf hosts many large industry shows, of which a number of them are the number one shows in their respective fields like ProWein for the wine sector.

You could think that an additional event like Prowine China could separate the markets and you have one show in Asia where only Asian visitors show up, but the opposite is the result. Visitors would go to the show in China and would be hopefully impressed and hear about the "original show" (so to say) in Düsseldorf which is ten times bigger.

Do you see a potential opportunity to host similar fair in other places like the United States?

Yes, it is a very attractive perspective, but it is also very difficult for a European organisation to establish trade shows in the USA. It has nothing to do specifically with the wine industry; it is a similar problem in many industries when it comes to trade shows in the USA - it is a very closed shop.

In the wine industry of course, it doesn't get help when it comes to 50 states where everyone has its own regulation for import and distribution through the three tier system. So yes, super attractive but super difficult!

Looking ahead, what is the future of ProWein?

We are trying to establish growth in space, but we feel that it is very important to create that organically. Not to grow too fast. On the other side we feel it is important to give the winemakers who want to go to ProWein a platform if we disappoint our attendees and exhibitors it is always a bad situation.

It is clear that the exhibition business is highly competitive and if we cannot meet the demand of our customers then somebody else will.

In the end it is important to meet the demand and at the same time it is right not to grow too fast because if the industry feels that something becomes too big then when it comes down to efficiency, for example, there is a lapse. That is a situation we don't want to have. That is the reason why we say that yes, there is growth potential. But also to realise this potential we have to be very cautious, careful and ensure organic growth.