I became an honorary Gin Rectifier last night (May 9). I took an oath and now I am duty bound to promote the best interests of gin.
At a trade press briefing organisers said the loss of some of the UK’s key wine operators had made an impact on the show’s size - which will be 24,000m2 and will comprise around 1,000 exhibitors from 34 countries - but that absentees were reacting to market conditions rather than the show itself.
Of the total exhibitors, 50-60 will be spirits brands, with Distil taking up 1,800m2 of the show.
Distil will include brands such as ABK6 cognac, Bardinet, a dedicated Hungarian pavilion and, pending confirmation, a Chinese pavilion.
James Murray, exhibition director at Brintex, said that while the event organiser “couldn’t control consumption, taxation and currency exchange”, the show had been “freshened up this year”, with a renewed focused on the needs of independent buyers.
Visitor numbers, according to Murray, are expected to equal or better the 13,693 achieved last year.
Murray said that an improved visitor count, which has risen each year since 2009, was notable, in light of the market backdrop. He said: “There is a smaller pool - fewer independents, restaurants, pubs and bars.”
Visitors are likely to be 78% domestic and 22% international, as was the case last year, but Murray said “LIWF still has a part to play on the global stage”.
Pernod Ricard's deputy managing director Simon Thomas said of the company's 2012 absence: "We continually monitor our allocation of resources and have decided to focus 100% on the significant amount of our consumer-facing campaigns and partnerships that are taking place this year. This means we will not be participating in this year’s London International Wine Fair."
For the fist time the show will host the Academy of Food and Wine Service’s UK Sommelier of the Year competition and an events package that includes the Off Licence News Independent Lounge, which has a focus on specialist retailers; the Small Independents Pavilion; the On-trade Theatre, an educational platform for sommeliers and trade professionals; and Discovery Tasting, where 1,000 wines without UK representation will be on show.
Murray said the briefings and events had a focus on independent retailers and that he hoped this year’s LIWF would “add value to their businesses”.
Responding to questions over a mooted return to the show’s former home, Olympia, in West London, managing director of Brintex Malcolm Taylor said that he had looked into a return but that the show had grown too big for the former site and that the rental cost was too high. He said: “ExCeL will continue to be the natural home of LIWF.”