In 30 years of attending trade fairs I have never entered an event with such uncertainty and excitement from what to expect with regards to COVID restrictions through to how the sector will embrace the subjects of sustainability, bio diversity, alcohol free popularity and appealing to millennials … I needn’t have bothered.
Firstly, and admittedly in line with government advice, masks and tests were no longer required and whilst Germans appear keen to maintain mask wearing within supermarkets the number of masks during the show was near zero. The Messe Dusseldorf did however provide superb staffing at the Messe tram / bus stops to inform visitors that on public transport mask wearing is still required ... the Messe Dusseldorf should, for this and the general management of the show, be rightly praised.
Walking around the Messe it became blatantly clear that this trade only event did not see any need to get bogged down with the time consuming subject of sustainability and/or bio diversity and the topic was conspicuous by its absence from nearly all booths. It would be fascinating if the event was opened to the public and to see the brands all assembling cardboard (naturally re-cycled) trees and imagines of cute (ideally near extinct and wild) animals on the booths to show how much they care.
One of the sub categories I was interested in exploring further is the subject of non alcoholic ranges and how these are being developed for a consumer who is increasingly demanding options such as non, or low, alcohol options. Here I was surprised by the lack of variety and whilst I had a talk with Belgian based Nona and sampled their non alcoholic gin and tonic I would have expected to see a wider assortment which matched the widely available data highlighting this growing trend. I appreciate that financial restraints post COVID may have made the show too expensive for newer brands that concentrate on non/low alcoholic ranges but surely we all survive by meeting consumers demands so I would have expected the more establish organisations to have featured this low hanging (non fermented) fruit more.
With sustainability ignored and non alcoholic options nearly non existent I was confident that I would be impressed by how the sector is embracing the younger, fun, eye catching designs that millennials are increasingly impressed by …. wrong. The sector has to realise that the days of the traditional label - whilst having a place to attract a certain demographic that haven't been allocated a letter at the end of the alphabet - are not going to attract the younger consumer who want to have an “experience” when purchasing a product. I was stopped in my tracks, and ended up having a great chat, when I paused to look again at the eye catching design of the Natterjack label which prominently features the only toad native to Ireland. There were other examples and saw 2 demonstrations when I stopped to look again at the innovative jar design from O'Donnell and the travel retail successful Nio cocktails in addition to the Lafferty & Sons gin bottles - the latter had already caught my eye at the TFWA exhibition in Cannes last year due to their superb design but these 3 where the exceptions in a sea of sameness.
… but there was still one hope and that was that humour or at least a move away from name, brand, country, grape, year would be embraced in 2022 … wrong again. The “Same but different” Hall 5 featured 120 craft and hip exhibitors from 24 countries but was the only place where one could find something that resembled fun but having this in its own dark hall only highlighted the lack of anything bordering on slightly on trend across the other halls. It’s clear that if you are selling a classic line to a demographic that doesn’t appreciate swearing or sex innuendos on their labels then tradition has a place but if you are aiming for a younger demographic then a little bit of outer box thinking might not go a miss.
The wider wine and spirits sector have managed to replace the post COVID phrase of “return to a new norm” with “return to the old normal” and whilst some factors such as sustainability will be easily addresses with tree planting statements and ripped jean wearing models the other factors such as eye catching designs and on trend styles needs addressing because the younger brands are all waiting in the wings with their hip (ripped jean wearing) marketing agents and they will love the lack of competition.
Many thanks to the following brands for the images within this blog :
Natterjack : https://www.natterjack.com/
Laffert & sons : https://www.laffertylimited.com/
O'Donnell : https://odonnell.de/pages/moonshine-history
Nio : https://niococktails.de/