Last year, Germany’s renowned trade show, Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) debuted BCB BK, a sister event in the U.S. On June 11 and 12, BCB BK will return to the Brooklyn Expo Center and attempt to top last year’s successful run. As industry folk finished booking their flights to Gotham, Neat Pour talked to BCB VP Paula November to learn what’s in store for the show’s second year.
To begin, the key to understanding the event is the knowledge that, unlike most other cocktail & spirits conventions, BCB is a true trade show. That means an industry-only crowd checking out booths upon booths of vendors displaying their latest & greatest.
2019 will see some 135 vendors showing off about 500 different brands. “From a venue perspective we’re not growing immensely [from last year]. We’re just building on a great platform that we’ve developed for 2018,” said November. “We’re building the base.”
Of course, the big brands will be there. Bacardi will bring their ‘La Gran Familia’ mega-activation to the event to push their core brands with all the spectacle that one expects from the powerhouse company. That includes providing the beverages to wash down lunch at the foodcourt.
In addition, French glass titan Riedel will use the show as an opportunity to launch their new line of barware. Whiskey upstart High West’s activation will feature a full-on train caboose.
However, November’s favorite part of the show features some less well known names. “I love the emerging brands area. It winds up being one of our busiest areas. It’s great to see them get so much exposure.”
The organizer pointed out that 78 new brands were launched at last year’s show. “That’s what BCB is,” she declared.
Following an industry-wide trend, the BCB team bulked out their education program for 2019. Curated under the leadership of Angus Winchester, this year’s lineup will feature 135 speakers spread over 67 sessions. Topics range from traditional fare like aging spirits and exploring amaro to ‘inside baseball’ subject matter like panels on how to make the most of losing a cocktail competition and a Spanish language seminar on barbacking.
November told NP that she believes the added emphasis on education is a function of BCB’s placement as an industry-facing event.
“That’s our job as a trade show. whether it has to do with empowerment or sexual harassment or diversity. We touch upon the topics that are important in the industry.”
“I think that there are plenty of tastings and competitions and things going on all the time. That’s really important and we showcase all these brands internationally as well,” she continued. “But, the education is something that [bar staff] can use to build their own careers. Just enhancing their career no matter how low or high in the rankings they are in their establishment. That seems to be something that they don’t get on a regular basis. That’s our job as a trade show. whether it has to do with empowerment or sexual harassment or diversity. We touch upon the topics that are important in the industry.”
Another key factor at BCB is the groups’ parent organization, Reed Exhibitions. Reed is not a spirits specialist; rather, they are a trade show specialist.
Given their pedigree, Reed brings a different approach—and different tools—to the table. “Those tools makes us very unique in the market,” touted November.
Attendees are encouraged to download the BCB app prior to the show. The technology allows guests to schedule meeting and direct message vendors at the show. Further, a calendar function allows app-users to automatically slot those meetings as well as education sessions into their personal schedules.
“This is something that we do and have been doing for years, but this is something that is still new to the industry,”
Reed is also focused on matchmaking at all of their shows. Vendors and guests alike are asked to answer a quick questionnaire. From there, an algorithm takes over and alerts guests to events and booths that pair well with their interests and expertises.
“This is something that we do and have been doing for years, but this is something that is still new to the industry,” added November. “So, in many ways, we’re still training our attendees in how to use these tools. They’ll start using the tools and it will all get stronger and stronger.”
Community & Place
The NYC location is no accident. The Big Apple was chosen because it’s the number one market in the industry. As such, it provides a great meeting point to gather the all sides of the trade.
“NY has not had a true trade show to bring the industry together,” said November. “And, the industry hasn’t had something like that in a long time, something that caters to premium [end of the market].”
Location is a keystone on a micro level as well. Breaking with most cocktail conventions, November firmly believes that keeping the event at a single venue is clutch. “BCB was developed as and continues to be a show that brings the community together in one location over two days,” she noted.
November also took care to stress that BCB is committed to the bar community moving forward. “BCB is here to stay,” she declared. “When we start a show, it’s not a one-off. We’ll continue to listen, to learn, and build on [each event.]”