#FactsAboutDrinktec: Q & A with Petra Westphal
It’s hardly going to be news to you when I say that in 2017 we have one major omnipresent preoccupation: the drinktec. Since about the middle of this year, this will have been evident to anyone following Krones in the social media, interacting with one of our staff, or in fact working in the sector at all. In order to gradually get ourselves attuned to the fair, we have for some weeks now been repeatedly providing what we call #FactsAboutDrinktec – meaning factual and background information on this premier trade fair, which we’ve either found in our own documents, or have learned at drinktec.com.
Now, about six weeks before the drinktec begins, I felt website researches were no longer enough, and went directly to the fountainhead of drinktec knowledge: to Petra Westphal, Project Group Leader for the fair.
How long now have you Petra Westphal, been involved with the drinktec? And for how long as a project manager?
After qualifying as a hotel administrator, and gaining some initial career experience in the hotel business and in consultancy, I got involved in trade fairs. Now I’ve been in this business for almost 25 years– first as a project assistant, than as an advisor, and since 2003 as Project Manager for the drinktec. In addition, as leader of a project group, I’m also responsible for the drinktec’s events abroad.
Not only for Krones, the drinktec is quintessentially THE fair. What makes this event the highlight of the sector, putting it as succinctly and simply as possible?
The drinktec is really something very special for everyone involved. You can imagine it as a sort of Olympic Games, which are also held every four years. Everyone concerned – exhibitors, visitors, and we ourselves as fair organisers – prepares with huge intensity. As with the Olympic Games, the drinktec is all about performative excellence and new records. Everyone wants to outdo his rivals. The exhibitors are all aspiring to showcase something new and perhaps even a path-breaking innovation. The visitors, in their turn, are keen to see precisely these innovations. At the same time, it’s also a kind of family get-together. Every four years, the sector meets up from all over the world. You repeatedly see people embracing each other who haven’t met in years beforehand. That’s part of the drinktec’s charm as well.
Besides the exhibitors’ stands, the fair’s supporting programme also plays a major role. Have these conferences, forums and competitions complemented the fair’s attractions ever since the first drinktec? Are there any discernible trends in the contents?
Over the course of decades, naturally enough, the fair has changed a lot, and has continued to evolve, not least in terms of its supporting programme. The first drinktec was held in the 1950s, back then under the name of the “German Brewery Exhibition”. There weren’t as yet any conferences or forums of the kind we’re familiar with nowadays. At the most recent events, we’ve upgraded the supporting programme to an even higher level of quality. We’ve introduced things like the Innovation Flow Lounge, the New Beverage Concepts Special Area or the place2beer, always with the aim of appealing to particular target groups. Which we’ve accomplished. The issues addressed by the supporting programme always reflect the ongoing trends in the sector. The trends this year are flexibility, modularised construction, batch size 1, zero waste management, reducing media consumption, new ingredients and sustainable production operations. Not to forget the increasing digitalisation of the process sequences involved.
Speaking of digitalisation. It will doubtless be one of the most prominent issues at this year’s drinktec. Is it a relevant development for you as an organiser too?
Yes, of course. As an organiser, we have to take due account of this development too. We do this by offering two online tools designed to make it easier for visitors to find answers to their personal questions. The first of these is the Innovation Guide. It’s designed to render the exhibitors’ innovations more easily and thus more responsively available. The Innovation Guide is part of the drinktec App. What’s special about it is that though the visitors can see before the fair which stands are going to be showing innovations for their own particular fields. it’s only when they actually enter the hall itself that the information on the innovations concerned will be uploaded to their mobile phones, and only then will they see precisely what innovation is being showcased. The Innovation Guide is a tool that hasn’t been seen before on the trade fair scene, a kind of modern-day matchmaking. We’re aiming to bring exhibitors even more purposefully together with the right customers.
And the second tool?
…is the Solution Listing. Many beverage producers are no longer looking for individual line components, but for specific solutions suited to a particular application or in response to a question, a problem. Usually, an exhibitor database permits a search based on exhibitor’s name, sectors, export nations and products. We didn’t think that was enough. In future, visitors will be able to search the database not only by products, but also by solutions, such as solutions for a flexible, easy product change-over, by solutions for product-friendly processing and filling, efficient, sustainable water utilisation or savings in packaging material.
In future, the SIMEI will be held every four years together with the drinktec in Munich. What were the reasons for behind this alliance?
The organiser of the SIMEI, the Unione Italiana Vini (UIV), approached us. Lengthy talks culminated two years ago in an agreement, under which the SIMEI retains its biennial schedule and form then on alternates between the venues in Italy and Munich. Both parties benefit from this alliance: the SIMEI receives access to the drinktec’s international visitors, and the drinktec profits from the capabilities of the SIMEI’s exhibitors, which are specifically geared to the needs of wine producers both large and small. What’s often forgotten is that lots of craft brewers are very keen to see what’s on show at wine equipment fairs, because there they can firstly find smaller and more affordable lines, and secondly the individuality they so much appreciate is abundantly catered for. This is why we have quite deliberately positioned our new Home&Craft exhibition section in the direct vicinity of the SIMEI. So there are huge synergies waiting to be tapped. I’m confident that the SIMEI, together with the drinktec, offers a trade fair package that’s unique the whole world over.
What’s the deal with Home&Craft?
With this new stand section we’re addressing what at first glance would appear to be a rather atypical target group: the home and hobby brewers. But also the craft brewers who have just crossed the threshold from private to commercial brewers. These two groupings have different requirements in terms of pack sizes, quality, and technological standards. Visitors to the fair will find everything they need for brewing small batches or minuscule quantities, without having to compromise on quality.
According to drinktec.com around 61% of the exhibitors are from abroad – i.e. significantly more than half. Has this always been the case, or is there a discernible trend here?
Compared with some of our other fairs, the drinktec has always had a very high proportion of foreign exhibitors. Since 2005, their numbers have exceeded their German counterparts. This development is, of course, a reflection of how things are evolving in the sector: due to acquisitions and take-overs, the number of relevant vendors in Germany has shrunk, while at the same time the industry has caught up in other countries, especially in China.
Thanks a lot for all these answers, Petra Westphal, my curiosity is now satisfied for the moment. So do you, the readers, have any further questions? Then simply make use of the comment function below the article – or drop by on us in Munich as from 11 September! 😊