The Buyer
What to expect as ProWein prepares for pivotal 2024 show 

What to expect as ProWein prepares for pivotal 2024 show 

It looks like ProWein will have to do without an appearance from Kylie at this year’s show, but for thousands of wine buyers and producers Dusseldorf still remains the place to be seen and to do business. Richard Siddle catches up with the show’s new director, Peter Schmitz, to find out how seriously it is taking competition from Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris, and what steps it is making to build on its status as the number one global wine fair.

Richard Siddle
18th January 2024by Richard Siddle
posted in Conference,

This year ProWein takes place across 13 halls at Messe Dusseldorf between March 10-12 and will hope to re-state its position as still Europe’s biggest international wine and spirits trade show.

After years of dominance leading the way and setting the agenda for international wine trade fairs, ProWein goes into the 2023 show with an even greater focus and steely determination to prove it is still the most significant global trade event. The shadow of Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris might not have stretched as far as threatening ProWein’s overall number one position, but it is certainly giving it more than just food for thought.

It is very aware, for example, that for a growing number of buyers and producers, alike, there are harder decisions to make in terms of which show to back, and put their investment behind.

Its organisers, Messe Dusseldorf, will be keeping a very close eye on how many more visitors Wine Paris 2024 attracts in February than the 36,000 that attended last year’s Paris show – up from 25,000 in the post-Covid 2022 event. Wine Paris is hoping to top 40,000 visitors in February and is reporting a 72% increase in international exhibitors and 28% jump in exhibition floor space.

Which is closing in fast on the 50,000 plus visitors expected at ProWein 2024, from 140 countries, who will be able to visit around 5,700 exhibitors from 61 countries, compared to the 3,900 exhibitors from 42 countries at Wine Paris 2024, up from 3,387 exhibitors in 2023. That close to 2,000 extra exhibitors still gives ProWein the edge, particularly amongst producers across the southern hemisphere with still large pavilions for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Chile.

ProWein is still the show to go to for the bulk of southern hemisphere producers from Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa

The question for both shows is now much of a bigger audience is there to go after? It is striking that even with 50,000 visitors in 2023, that is still down some 20% on the numbers that went to ProWein in its pre-Covid peak of 2019. Are those 10,000 or so buyers and visitors still there to go after, or has the international market contracted in the last five years? Are there simply less trade professionals looking to travel – particularly now the Chinese wine market appears to be in long term decline?

Fresh challenge

That’s the challenge – and potential opportunity – for the new ProWein director, Peter Schmitz, to take on. Not that you could tell he was under any adverse pressure when we met up in London just prior to the Christmas break.

“ProWein is still the number one show,” said Schmitz. “Yes, we are facing new competition from Paris, but we can’t both grow all parts of the wine industry.”

He added: “Wine Paris is growing, but it is still mostly French producers, whilst ProWein is the whole world. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but when you are on top you are the hunted one. ProWein remains the true global wine fair.”

ProWein’s new director, Peter Schmitz, presents the shows plans at a press conference in Dusseldorf this week

Its position in Dusseldorf, though, is arguably now very different. Rather than be on the attack and the front foot, as it is in all the new markets it is exploring around the world, it has more of a consolidation job on its hands. It might be using the tag line “Often Copied, Never Matched” but its 2024 show will have a similar number of exhibitors – around 5,700 – this year as there was in 2023 across the same 72,000 sqm of floor space.

Schmitz is noticeably circumspect about which countries are showing most demand for space, but when pressed says Italy is “stable”, whilst Germany and France have a “bit less” stands but Spain and Greece are “growing”. In terms of the New World he said Australia “is smaller” but the “other countries” including South Africa, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand are all “stable”.

The biggest exhibitor numbers are coming from Italy (950), France (700), Germany (650) and Spain (650).

Which is why ProWein is investing a great deal in ensuring its databases of buyers in key markets around the world are as up to date as they can be, he said.

“We are investing more in the quality of our visitors and working to get the key buyers to come,” he added. “That’s how we make sure ProWein is the world leading event it is.”

It’s also how it can keep its position as the “most international and relevant trade fair worldwide”.

There will be a bigger focus on no and low alcohol products at ProWein 2024 with double the space for producers

To do that means working with local agencies to ensure all the key buyers in that market are on its database. It certainly can’t rely on the database it had in 2019 going into Covid as so much has changed since then.

It has forged closer ties with the likes of the IWSC, Institute of Masters of Wine and Sustainable Wine Roundtable, so that it is in step with their plans and what they can do together. “They can also help market the show to their members. We are also working with the International Wineries for Climate Action for the first time,” explained Schmitz.

Global push

This might be the first ProWein that Schmitz has been in charge of, but it is far from his first rodeo as a major events organiser. In fact February will mark 37 years working for Messe, the exhibition business, that owns and manages not just ProWein but tens of other shows and exhibition halls across Germany and around the world. Many of which Schmitz has managed, covering a wide range of industry sectors including, in recent years, food, grocery and agriculture.

It’s noticeable how he sees ProWein as very much an international wine fair business, where its event in Dusseldorf, whilst by far its largest, is one part of a global network of events that is looking to grow and cement its position in key countries around the world across Asia and South America. It is now running shows in Singapore, Hong Kong, São Paulo, Shanghai and, for the first time in 2023, Mumbai. April sees it host its first show in Tokyo and Schmitz is excited about the opportunities that now opens up.

ProWein is looking to push its brand and exhibitions around growing markets around the world and held its first event in India in Mumbai last November

Shows that arguably have bigger potential for growth than its main event in Dusseldorf.

“We work for ProWein World, not just Messe Dusseldforf,” he stressed. “We see Asia as a key region for growth. Africa is still a big opportunity. They are also all increasing markets.”

Messe even now co-owns in a joint venture the exhibition hall where it hosts its Shanghai event – now into its 11th year. Interestingly it has signed strategic partnerships with separate food exhibitions, like Anuga, to run a joint show in some of these countries, like Japan, where it can work together and share some resources to run events more effectively.

Which is where Schmitz’s international experience working on trade shows in most of these countries, or similar, puts him in a particularly good position to see how the ProWein brand and experience can be strengthened around the world.

“I know how to organise major trade shows and creating a good atmosphere built around a strong team. Which is what we have at ProWein. A team focused on building ProWein around the world where Dusseldorf is the core of the business.”

If major events like ProWein are to be “sustainable” in the future, Schmitz believes having a series of satellite shows around its main event is the way to grow. It is also, in time, a good way to convince buyers that might know ProWein from, say, its show in Shanghai to then come and see what it does at is major show in Germany, he explained.

ProWein Dusseldorf: what to expect

The key numbers for ProWein 2024

In terms of what to expect from ProWein 2024 in Dusselforf here are some of the key highlights:

  • A higher profile dedicated spirits hall (5) to bring together a bigger range of craft and premium spirits under its ProSpirits brand. This will include a full masterclass and seminar programme. This will also include a number of craft beer brands. It hopes to have 300 spirits exhibitors across 4,800 sqm.
  • ProWein Zero. With such global demand for quality no and lo alcohol products ProWein has doubled the space for producers and brands to show what they are doing with 45 companies signed up.
  • The Same But Different part of the show will shine the light on craft beers and ciders.
  • ProWein is also promising a strong content programme to sit alongside its extensive masterclasses with sessions on new technology and AI and the big issues facing the wine industry.
  • Business France will be hosting a series of French wine masterlcasses.
  • Other key areas of the fair include an Organic World, Champagne Lounge, a section on packaging and design innovation, and tasting area by Mundus.
  • It will also have a dedicated podcast studio at the show for visitors and producers to use.

ProWein 2024 has come a long way from when it started out 30 years ago with 321 exhibitors from eight countries. It has helped bring thousands of producers and buyers together since then and knows it will have to work even harder to continue to do so in the years ahead.