It’s finally back: IPM Essen returns after a three-year wait

True to tradition, houseplants will occupy pride of place at the IPM Essen show.

IPM Essen, the world’s premier horticultural trade exhibition, will finally return in January to Essen, Germany, after a three-year break because of Covid-19. According to Oliver P. Kuhrt, general manager of show organiser Messe Essen, IPM Essen is unique. As he describes, “Nowhere else in the world can industry professionals find such a comprehensive overview of global ornamental horticulture.”

Nearly three years have passed since the last edition of IPM Essen full format took place. For the organisers of the world’s largest horticultural trade show, it was a long wait that felt like a roller coaster ride.
It is safe to say that the lowest point was the cancellation of the 2021 show on 21 October 2020. A few weeks earlier, Messe Essen’s boss had reiterated there was “no plan B” and that the event was to go ahead on its planned dates. Subsequently, the attempts to stage an IPM Essen show in 2022 also failed. After the cancellation of the 2022 show, the industry experienced what the organiser calls “a good dose of positivity and togetherness” at the IPM Summer Edition in June last year, even if the event faced some criticism.

Messe Essen‘s Boss, Oliver Kuhrt.

The 39th IPM Essen is now returning to Essen from 24-27 January 2023. And Oliver Kuhrt is delighted that IPM Essen is finally back connecting suppliers and operators when they need it most.

FloraCulture International: A debuting Horti Tech Innovation Centre and IPM Concept Store, Great Britain as Partner Country. What else can we expect at the 2023 IPM Essen show?

Oliver P. Kuhrt: “IPM Essen 2023 will feature a top-notch educational programme addressing all relevant industry topics. In addition to the latest in horticultural tech and retail concepts, we will offer guided tours across the fairgrounds. Based on the visitor’s preferences and interest in specific products or services, we will take them to the stand of the appropriate exhibitors. There will, for example, be tours revolving around the theme of climate trees and perennials.”

What will attendees get in Essen that they can’t get at other horticultural trade shows?

“IPM Essen is the world’s leading trade fair for horticulture, covering the entire value chain: technology, living plants, floristry, and garden features. Visitors will not find such a comprehensive overview of global ornamental horticulture.”

Messe Essen anticipates 1,300 exhibitors from more than 14 countries.

IPM Essen, the world’s premier horticultural trade show, is designed to represent all segments of ornamental horticulture. Which industry segment do you think could use a stronger presence?

“Plants that contribute to biodiversity and can cope with climate change will take centre stage. Perennials, for example, will be put in the limelight. Not only through guided tours, but we also teamed up with perennial plant industry bodies Stauden Ring and Bund Deutscher Staudengärtner to set up a meeting point. There, interested trade visitors can obtain information and advice.”

After two years of massive disruption to the global exhibition industry and a year in 2022 that marked the end of Covid’s acute stage, where is IPM Essen now, and how did the pandemic change IPM Essen’s format and approach to trade show management?

“The pandemic has shown that digital offerings cannot replace in-person trade shows. This is confirmed by the green industry and other industrial trade shows that rely on face-to-face meetings. In general, we can see that the pandemic is playing an increasingly subordinate role in the European market in particular. In contrast, the Asian market is still acting with restraints of which travel restrictions are the most prominent ones.”

In the last three years, we have primarily seen a proliferation of virtual and online events; face-to-face trade shows combined with a virtual component and, eventually, full physical shows. What do you think IPM Essen has learnt about what works and does not?

“We have learnt that complete trade fairs do not work satisfactorily via digital means. Face-to-face conversations, real networking and making new contacts are best made on-site. For that, you must see each other live. Supplementary information, on the other hand, is well received digitally. That’s why we will again transfer the IPM Discovery Center and the new Concept Store into a digital showroom, which will offer visitors practical orientation even after the trade show.”

Would you say IPM’s summer showcase worked well between 13-14 June 2022? I must ask you this because we have heard negative feedback about the event from long-time, trusted IPM exhibitors feeling forced to participate in the summer event. Messe Essen told them their presence during summer was required to secure their spot in January 2023. Is that feedback correct, and do you plan another IPM Summer event in 2023?

“Due to the pandemic, the IPM Summer Edition was a one-off networking event in the summer. We followed the great desire of the industry to meet and received positive feedback throughout. The IPM Summer Edition was also a positive signal to the industry and paved the way to the upcoming world trade fair IPM Essen next January.”

The 2023 IPM Essen show will once again host a Discovery Centre bringing together fashion designers, floral arrangers, trend spotters, futurists, garden retailers and floral wholesalers to present their most creative marketing concepts.

Horticulture is currently going through a big transformation”, said the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Cem Özdemir, in a video message at ‘The Future of German Horticulture’ conference held in October in Berlin. Did you attend the meeting, and what are your thoughts on this statement?

“Unfortunately, I could not attend this event, so I cannot make an informed statement. The industry’s transformation is new and has been present for years. Digitalisation, sustainable production and so on have been with us for quite a while. IPM Essen responds to this thematically with its special shows and specialist forums.”

FCI is an international trade publication with a global readership, so can you paint a more global picture of IPM Essen’s satellite shows worldwide? Tell us about Hortiflorexpo China, taking place between 13-15 April 2023 in Shanghai.

“We are organising a German pavilion at Hortiflorexpo Shanghai, which remains the leading trade fair for Asian horticulture. The end to the pandemic restrictions is in sight. However, we are experiencing a dynamic market situation in Asia that is shortening the planning horizon.”

This year, OPF Mexico, powered by IPM Essen, was cancelled, with organisers explaining that the show will continue as a biennial event. Hosting an OPF show every other year may be more challenging in the long run: if you take a year off from your event, a good portion of your crowd will get invited to another event – and it’ll be up to Messen Essen to win them back. What is your view?

“The first IPM Mexico started shortly before the pandemic in 2019. In 2020, it was not possible to hold it. At the request of local partners, the show took place as a national event in 2021. There are thoughts of holding IPM Mexico in odd-numbered years and offering accompanying workshops and other side events in even-numbered years. How IPM Mexico will develop further, only time will tell.”

At the same time, FlowersExpo Russia informs me that all collaboration and partnerships with Messe Essen have stopped since the pandemic. In 2020, the German pavilion at this show was set up without the help of Messe Essen. Would you describe the Russian venture as a blooming success or a wilted flower?

“Messe Essen has taken a clear position on the Ukraine conflict and is currently suspending cooperation with Russian partners and exhibitors at all its events as a matter of principle.”

What is the next step for IPM Essen?

“We are in close contact with our exhibitors to ensure their trade show presence will succeed. We are also working on the final details of the educational programme. Another important item on our current to-do list is visitor promotion. With this, we are drawing attention to IPM Essen on various channels and in numerous countries. Our anticipation is growing with each passing day. We look forward to a great trade fair and welcoming the green industry as our guests. The signs are promising; we expect to welcome around 1,300 exhibitors from more than 40 nations.”

This interview first appeared in the December 2022 edition of FloraCulture International.

The floral design show in IPM Essen’s feature area Green City.

↑ Back to top