Blog: Andy MortonBar Convent Berlin - Day two: Startups and fishy gin

Andy Morton | 7 October 2015

just-drinks is in Berlin this week for Bar Convent Berlin. Here's the second and final part of Andy Morton's blog, which will keep you up-to-date at one of Europe's most important dates in the alcohol industry's calendar.

  • The second day of the show and there's no let-up in visitor numbers - it's packed in the passageways between the stands. Upstairs in the relative quiet of the press room I spoke to Bar Convent Berlin founder Helmut Adam about the future direction of the show. As I wrote yesterday, Bar Convent is now partnered with Reed Exhibitions and has enjoyed a corresponding boost to its funding. And with cocktail culture expanding around the world, the team are setting their sights beyond Europe with the prospect of sister shows in new markets. But whether we will see first a Bar Convent Shanghai, Bar Convent Buenos Aires or a Bar Convent Singapore, Adam won't say. “Asia and South America [are more likely] but it's an open process,” he said. “We're already talking to people in these areas, so things are on the road but we'll see how it goes.”
  • Today was a big day for Distill Ventures, the Diageo-backed seed programme for spirits startups, which had taken over one of the seminar rooms for a packed schedule of talks. Distill is now in its second year, so I used the opportunity to ask one of its lead figures the same question just-drinks columnist Ian Buxton asked one year into the scheme - are you happy? Turns out Frank Lampen is still perfectly satisfied with progress, not least because one of the first recruits to Distill, Belsazar Vermouth, is exhibiting at Bar Convent Berlin and even took part today in a discussion on new spirits businesses.
  • The full interview with Lampen will run in just-drinks later but for now I'll reveal his interest in savoury spirit flavours, which he believes is a coming trend. He points to the sudden growth over the past few years in salted caramel products in both food and beverage, but also to fears over sugar, which he believes will help fuel a consumer switch to savoury. He did, however, bring up one failed submission to Distill Ventures that didn't quite hit the savoury trend. It was a gin that used seaweed as a botanical. “It just tasted of fish,” Lampen said.
  • Belsazar Vermouth's founder Max Wagner spoke glowingly of the help Distill has given him in his 18 months since starting out. But he said it wasn't the seed money that was the most important factor in him making it this far – the business assistance has been more important. “You can always get money from private equity,” Wagner said. “It's the background help that has made the difference.”
  • The global trade body for cachaça, the Instituto Brasileiro da Cachaça (IBRAC), is making its presence felt with a huge stand near the show's entrance. The group has been trying to do the same for the Brazilian spirit for the past few years with the help of government funding to boost cachaça's global exports, which compared to Tequila, for example, are tiny. Carlos Lima, the group's executive director, told me that export value for cachaça actually decreased between 2009 and last year. However, new figures are out at the end of this month, and expectations are for an increase, Lima said. Cachaça has enjoyed a lot of positive marketing over the past year or so thanks to the World Cup and the upcoming Rio Olympics. It's time to turn that into hard sales.

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