One of the things that stood out at Fruit Logistica in Berlin is the cultural differences between Europe and the U.S. In Berlin it was hard to find a booth without some food and drink for guests. The large booths featured large hospitality areas with food and beverages.
The Chiquita booth, which was truly beautiful — and served as the anchor for the new Americas Pavilion — was basically a bar with hostesses serving tropical drinks operated under a roof suggestive of tropical plantation house.
Partly this reflects the role of food and drink as the centerpiece around which life revolves in many European countries. Coffee, some wine, water, cookies… these are the basics to be available for any meeting.
This trend is reinforced on the floor because of the European practice of building convention centers on the outskirts of town with few large hotels nearby. This means that attendees are widely scattered.
In addition the shows are a long day — typically from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM — so between location and schedule, there are many fewer client dinners, hotel hospitality suites etc. It becomes imperative that the booth experience provide an opportunity to extend hospitality to clients.
Also with no nearby hotel suites to cut out to for private meetings, people spend much more time in their booths and much more business is done on the show floor. We saw exhibitors sit at a table in their booth and plan out a whole season. First, they met their German customer, then the Russian, then French, Swedish, U.K. etc. These were not social meetings; they planned volumes, promotions, price, etc.
Many things at the show are very beautiful. In general, the produce displays were better and the booths themselves, many of which were paid for by the government, were more beautiful.
The hospitality is really lovely, endearing, a joy.
And the idea of keeping people, especially buyers, on the show floor longer is an answer to a dream come true for PMA, United Fresh and CPMA, all of which suffer because many big buyers attend the shows but are barely seen on the floor as they hole up in hotel suites doing performance reviews and whatnot.
Yet, despite its obvious appeal, very little is particularly applicable to America.
We are too fast-paced to sit down at every booth for espresso, a chocolate and small talk. We would be horrified to have everyone see who we are talking to and even overhearing details of the conversations.
We don’t want our employees drinking on the job and many aren’t used to it so might behave badly if we gave them the chance.
It is a beautiful, mind-broadening experience to attend, but one hopes they won’t try to become more “American” and that the American shows won’t try to become more “European.” They both succeed because they fit the world they serve.
The homogenization of the world has gone quite far. We will all enjoy the world more if we keep the distinctiveness of these very different events.