BioFach and Vivaness 2010: Sector get-together and emotional brand experience

  • Interview with Claus Rättich, Member of the Management Board of NürnbergMesse

It’s time again from 17–20 February 2010, when the whole spectrum of the organic sector gathers in the exhibition centre in Nürnberg. 2,733 exhibitors and 46,771 trade visitors came to the last BioFach, the World Trade Fair for Organic Products, and Vivaness, the international platform for natural personal care and wellness. Organic is proving its worth in the present crisis, but the market still faces a variety of challenges and structural changes. So exactly the right time for taking stock – in Nürnberg.

Mr Rättich, as one of the “movers” of BioFach and Vivaness, you have accompanied the development of the sector for more than ten years. What particularly inspires you?
First certainly the fact that here people with a real mission have put a really good idea on the map – and this in a way that is unrivalled throughout the world. I find this admirable and very impressive, just as I find the BioFach and Vivaness exhibitors themselves, with their variety of characters, products, imagination and persistence. Privately I don’t buy exclusively organic, but use BioFach all the more to be constantly inspired anew by the uniqueness of organically produced food.

What are the key trends and developments and what can the sector expect at BioFach and Vivaness in 2010?
One of the major trends of the past years is certainly the growing importance of the ecological, social and economic added value of products, such as sustainability, fairness and social responsibility. We are tackling these socially relevant matters, for example, with our Theme of the Year Organic + Fair. Manufacturers can use this special area to highlight their fair aspects and organic products. We are giving Organic + Fair in 2010 the same status as a Country of the Year. The focuses on organic wine and natural cosmetics in 2008 attracted an enthusiastic response from visitors.

Our visitors can naturally also look forward to familiar highlights like the Wine Hall 4A with the new MUNDUSvini BioFach International Organic Wine Award, the natural beauty Vivaness and the Textil-Area, which celebrated its premiere in 2009. As always, visitors can also obtain concentrated information and exchange views about all our special topics at specific forums as part of the congress. Some 8,000 visitors attended the well over 100 events at the last BioFach Congress and Vivaness Forum.

The international organic market has enjoyed rapid growth for many years. Despite the economic crisis, the market for organic products is still growing – although somewhat slower. What are the most important structural changes and challenges currently facing the sector?The market does indeed appear to be changing very dynamically at present; traditional structures are breaking up and subject to close scrutiny and new sales channels are becoming established. The sector is reorganizing. In Germany, the specialist retail trade is growing, whereas discounters had to accept about 6?% less, reports the Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK), the market researcher from Nürnberg, Germany. At times like these, the specialist retail trade appears to be coming off better again. Experts attribute this to the customer structure in this trade segment, which is traditionally frequented by convinced intensive buyers and less by occasional buyers. The change and dynamic of the different sales channels also represent a challenge.

Strong, new market players naturally bring movement into the whole sector. It is becoming increasingly important for manufacturers and the trade to position their own brands.

The market for organic products is also changing at international level. Europe and the USA traditionally show the strongest growth. The economic crisis will probably also leave its mark in a sector otherwise so accustomed to growth in those countries that are especially heavily affected – including the USA.

Overall, we observe more critical reporting on organic issues. Following the big boom, the public seems to increasingly question the trust enjoyed by the sector and its products for a long time. This also applies to consumer behaviour and motivation in the newly developed organic target groups and to the public debate on strategic consumption. Perhaps this is also a result of the many years of rapid growth.

What does this mean for the world-leading BioFach and the parallel Vivaness?
We currently expect a reduction of about 10?% for the BioFach and Vivaness duo. This is undesirable for us as organizer, but I still believe it is a good result under the present circumstances.

The number of international exhibitors suffers from the loss of government support funds for pavilions and will probably develop in this way in the long term, also from an economic viewpoint. International and German manufacturers cut their marketing budgets at times of crises. Some German exhibitors were not happy about losing the Sunday – quite the opposite to the international guests. We will naturally do everything to make the Saturday as the last day of the exhibition as attractive as possible. This also applies to the congress programme. I am optimistic that we will succeed.

We attribute the drop in the number of exhibitors at Vivaness from 205 to about 180 to the restructuring of sales policy and channels and the brand positioning of our customers.

How are you as exhibition organizer reacting to this situation?
The business requirements and wishes of our exhibitors and visitors are our main priority regarding the concept of BioFach and Vivaness. We are therefore in constant touch with our customers. Obviously they don’t all have the same wishes and objectives all the time. The consistent B-to-B orientation has a very high priority, likewise the development of new target groups, such as currently pharmacies and perfumeries for Vivaness.

We have reallocated the halls for 2010 and the German retail brands are now concentrated in halls 6, 7 and 9. The Textil-Area and the natural products segment have been moved from hall 7 to hall 8. We are closing halls 3 and 10, which were only partly filled in 2009. This makes the allocation more compact and orientation easier, which guarantees even more efficient exhibitor presentations and visits.

The non-food segments of textiles, natural products, detergents and cleaning agents are combined in a separate hall in 2010, likewise Vivaness. At the same time, we are sharpening the profile of BioFach through a stronger concentration of the product segment food. We expect this to lead to even higher visitor frequencies and growing customer satisfaction.

In what way are BioFach and Vivaness important for the international organic sector?
It is becoming increasingly apparent to us that the customers see exhibitions in a less sales-orientated way than in earlier years. Exhibitions are places for the sector to meet for cultivating customer relations and networks. They promote sales on the one hand, but also the positioning of corporate and product brands. The sector attracts a level of media attention through the exhibition – especially in the case of a world-leading event – that a single company could never achieve. This is also an important aspect of the function of BioFach and Vivaness. They are lobbying events. After all, 1,200 media representatives and a variety of political disseminators also meet at the exhibition duo. Alone in 2009, for example, there were 23 ministers and the 15-person German Parliamentary Committee on Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

The exhibition has a political and social relevance for the sector’s development that far exceeds the immediate business importance.

The sector should not relinquish its privilege of interpreting organic, fairness and sustainability. And where else, if not here in Nürnberg, can the whole market meet to shape the future together?

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