Guillaume Deglise knew he had a tough job on his hands trying to re-invent Vinexpo in the eyes of key international wine and spirit buyers when he took on the role of chief executive in 2014. But for him the strategy is quite simple. To make the show and Vinexpo all about providing a community for buyers and drinks producers to do business. Here he explains how he hopes to take that on to a new level at Vinexpo Bordeaux in June.
If you have not been to Vinexpo in recent years, then it might be worth re-considering what it has to offer particularly now that it wants to make buyers the real stars of the show.
Regardless of your size, if you are a wine or spirits producer looking to seriously export your wines around the world then your success and failure will ultimately come down to how well connected you are with buyers. The key decision makers in the right channels of the target markets you need for your products.
You might have drinks at the price, the quality and the size of volumes you need to hit those markets, but unless you know the right people, the key buyers in those markets, then it’s hard to get past Go on the international drinks Monopoly board.
It’s a factor that Guillaume Deglise, chief executive of Vinexpo, the global wine and spirits exhibition business, knows only too well from his previous life travelling the world looking to make contacts and build international exports whilst working with some of Champagne’s leading brands.
Which is why when he took on the role in 2014, for what appeared at the time the unenviable task of turning around Vinexpo, which by general consensus had more than started to lose its way, particularly at its flagship Bordeaux event, he realised the show had to get back to what it should be doing best. Namely creating the platform for wine producers and buyers to meet, network, and do business. Simple as that.
Vinexpo, for many, at least in Europe, had lost that crown to Prowein which was now seen as the show to do business at. Vinexpo, by comparison, was regarded as the place to be seen, to shake hands, to entertain. Which in a time when every penny, cent and rand counts double meant it was in danger of losing its purpose with busy international buyers.
Deglise is very aware it is up to him and his team to re-invent Vinexpo and make it a must attend show again. “We want to make it like the Davos of wine,” he says. This year’s event, for example, will include two set piece conferences looking at the challenges and opportunities around climate change and the impact of Brexit on the global wine and spirits industry.
“Hopefully a lot of people who did not come to Vinexpo in 2015 will have heard that it has changed and will come and experience the show this year,” adds Deglise.
The global wine industry has also moved on a pace since 2015, with Bordeaux itself once again a big draw for international buyers on the back of its good 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Which is why it was fascinating to talk to Deglise last week in London, at a Vinexpo press briefing to look at global wine and spirit trends, about how he is working hard to put buyers back at the centre of everything it does as a business.
Networking is key
The biggest indication of that was arguably the introduction of “One to Wine” meetings at the 2015 show whereby exhibitors, producers and buyers interested in expanding their sales and distribution could be paired together to hold independent meetings.
The move proved such a success two years ago, when around 1,500 meetings were organised by Vinexpo over what was then a five day show, it is being repeated at this year’s event in June when Deglise hopes Vinexpo will be able to host over 2,000 such meetings.
Quite a formidable act of match making, and the opportunity for both buyers and producers to identify the type of markets and contacts they are keen to meet and leave it up to Vinexpo to bring them together.
Deglise says the goal is simply to bring potential business partners together, and is particularly useful for buyers looking to expand in to an unknown territory for the first time and for producers hoping to make contacts that are so hard to do during the normal workings of such a busy fair.
He says he expects it to be popular amongst buyers looking to explore the key Asian markets and with an estimated 27% of the expected 48,000 visitors coming from the Asian Pacific there is a lot of match making to be done.
Buyer and supplier partners
It is, though, very much part of Deglise’s wider strategy to make Vinexpo more than simply a trade fair. He wants it be seen as very much an independent “partner” of the international wine trade. Yes, it is a French business, but it is completely neutral in its approach and it wants to play its part in helping all markets grow.
Last week’s trade briefing in London was a case in point, with Vinexpo teaming up with drinks analysts, IWSR, to present global wine and spirit predictions across red, white, rosé and sparkling wines and the major spirit categories between now and 2020. Its global wine report makes for fascinating reading and highlights the key growth areas and opportunities up to 2020.
None more so in China which is on course to dominate the global wine market over the next four years, accounting for 71.8% of total wine growth from imports over the next four years, according to Vinexpo and IWSR’s new figures.
“We keep talking about China, but it is the market that is seeing the most important changes,” says Deglise.
Its case sales, for example, are expected to go from 52.7m in 2016 to 94.5m in 2010, a leap of 79.3%.
What makes China’s growth most exciting for the global wine trade, adds Deglise, is that it is now for the first time a consumer driven and not state driven market. “Consumption in China has changed. It is becoming more of a consumer’s market which is much more open minded about what they drink,” he says.
There is much for the rest of the world to learn from how fast China’s wine industry is growing, particularly by how so much of it is being driven by ecommerce and China’s dominate internet retailers such as Alibaba. “Ecommerce in China is very much more advanced than it is in Europe,” says Deglise.
So much so that there was an overall 35% increase in wine imports in to China in 2016, says Deglise.
It has also announced further details about its Vinexpo Explorer programme which will act as a new networking and business network community for the top 100 wine buyers it identities around the world. Each year the top 100 buyers will be invited to attend special visits to up and coming and interesting wine regions and countries. The first of which is being held in Austria between September 11-12, with the promise of other similar trips to the likes of Sicily or the Margaret River in future years.
Deglise says that with such a changing and dynamic market place it is vital more steps are taken to help producers and buyers work closer together so that they can understand their needs better and work more efficiently together.
“We want to create a way for producers and buyers to connect with each other outside of a traditional wine show. We want to create a community for buyers,” he explains.
It is currently inviting and recruiting buyers to make up its Top 100 which it hopes to be able to consolidate and invite back to future Explorer and Vinexpo events in the future.
There is certainly a gap in the global market for a business of the scale and reputation of Vinexpo to step up to the mark. If the last 12 months has taught us anything, it’s the fact that only by working more openly and together are wine producers and buyers going to have a chance of making the most of these disruptive and challenging times.