The changing face of the global on-trade - Interview, co-founder of Bar Convent Berlin, Helmut Adam

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The Bar Convent Berlin on-trade show wrapped up on Wednesday, with record numbers of visitors and exhibitors attending. just-drinks sat down with the event's co-founder and marketing & communications manager, Helmut Adam, to find out what changes the show's new partnership with Reed Exhibitions has brought and how alcohol companies are raising brand awareness in cocktail bars around the world.

Helmut Adam helped start Bar Convent Berlin nine years ago

Helmut Adam helped start Bar Convent Berlin nine years ago

just-drinks: How has Bar Convent Berlin been for you this time around?

Helmut Adam: We've been doing the show for nine years now, and usually we have a massive queue outside. This year, there was no queue because the door system worked for the first time. So, despite being the biggest show yet, everything worked smoothly.

j-d: There have been a few changes this year, namely the new partnership with Reed Exhibitions [an international event organiser that also runs Comic Con and The London Book Fair, amongst others].

HA: What is new is that now we are a bigger team, which means more communication. Before, it was a smaller team so we could make quick decisions. But, for the short amount of time we've been working together it has gone well. People had concerns that there would be a big company involved with a different culture. But, it wasn't like that. Negotiations took two years, so we really got to know each other.

j-d: How do you see the show evolving in the future?

HA: Our beer platform still has room to grow. Beer has its own culture. It's still connected to everything else, but there's a little beer heart now pumping inside the bigger heart.

j-d: How has the industry changed in nine years?

HA: The on-trade approach by companies has become more sophisticated. From the first Bar Convent to now, it's a completely different picture. Everything has become much more international and more professional. At the beginning, it was us bringing in famous bartenders. But, now the brands are bringing in those people, and additional people too.

j-d: Have you seen the cocktail trend growing in recent years?

HA: Yes. In Germany, when we started, innovation consisted of exchanging mango syrup for strawberry syrup, whereas when I worked in London I had fresh fruit all year round. So, Germany has evolved, and other markets, definitely. In Eastern Europe, they are very quick to adapt, and eager to learn. In Russia, the speed that St Petersburg and Moscow has developed is incredible.

j-d: How can companies extend this trend into new markets?

HA: Diageo is the best example, with its World Class cocktail competition. They are moving it around, to places like Greece and New Delhi. This year it was in Cape Town. They have put a focus on Africa. All the bartenders are aspiring to be part of that and win these competitions. Bacardi Legacy is a similar programme. These competitions have been turned into training sessions with a lot of small-scale seminars and talks. This kind of thing wasn't there before.

j-d: Is cocktail culture now more global?

HA: Yes. I used to be on a web forum called DrinkBoy. We all discussed cocktails and ingredients. Then social media came, and bartenders were one of the first to join Facebook, because it was an easy way to connect and share.

j-d: Is that why you have plans to expand internationally?

HA: Companies are already are approaching us about our plans, and asking us to tell them when we are ready to do it. We have brands here from all over the world, so we already have an international platform. I don't want to say it will be easy to do because every market is different. If we move Bar Convent somewhere else, then we need people on the ground to help us develop the proper content, because different countries want different things. 

j-d: So, where first?

HA: I think Asia and South America. It's an open process. We're pursuing both roads and we'll see which one is the fastest. We're already talking to people in these areas, so it's not in the early stages anymore, it's already on the road.

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