Cologne: 03.–05.09.2024 #kindundjugend

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Kind + Jugend: 5 Questions to Jörg Schmale

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What highlights await visitors at the leading international trade fair for baby and toddler equipment this year? What role do sustainability and innovation play for the industry and thus also for Kind + Jugend? Jörg Schmale – Director of Kind + Jugend – provides exciting insights and dares a look into the future.

Joerg Schmale pushes a pram on the fair grounds

Kind + Jugend 2023 is coming up: What highlights and trends can trade visitors expect this year? What are you personally looking forward to in particular?

Kind + Jugend is finally highly international again this year! Trade visitors can look forward to exhibitors from all over Europe, but also from countries like Turkey, India, Pakistan South Korea, Taiwan, China, the USA, Israel and Thailand. Many well-known brands are back this year for the first time after the Corona break. In my opinion, the special charm of the trade fair is that, in addition to the major players in the industry, many young companies and start-ups are also represented.

In terms of content, we expect the topics of sustainability and smart technology to play a major role – the expectation of innovative ideas in all areas of our industry is correspondingly high. I am sure: All visitors can be excited about which novelties and innovative ideas will be presented for the first time in Cologne.

Personally, I am particularly looking forward to the expansion of the award area: Our Innovation Award has long been one of the highlights of the trade show. It will be further enhanced by the "World of Sustainability" category introduced last year and the new "Midwives' Choice" Award. The "Midwives' Choice" award will be presented for the first time in 2023: Prizes will be awarded to three products that meet the requirements of the midwives' jury of our partner due to their nature and product benefits.

Trade visitors of Kind + Jugend exchanging information

Trade visitors at Kind + Jugend, talking animatedly about trends and highlights of the trade fair. (Image: shapecharge, Getty Images)

More visitors and, for the first time since the pandemic, participants from Asia are expected again. How important is the personal exchange within the industry and how does Kind + Jugend promote this concretely on the trade fair days?

We all appreciate and use the possibilities of digital communication – but at the same time, the industry needs an international platform where trade and industry come together for a personal exchange.

To develop a feel for the trends, you need to experience products and the people behind the brands "live". Kind + Jugend offers this platform, and with high visitor quality: 77% of our visitors are in management positions and 92% are involved in purchasing decisions.

We facilitate networking, for example, through our trade show app as well as meeting and break-out rooms such as our VIP lounge. Visitors can use the app to make contacts and arrange appointments well before the trade show begins; after the event, new contacts can be easily exported from the app. Then, of course, there are our events such as the After-Seven Party, where many a business deal has been initiated in a relaxed atmosphere. And don't forget: Cologne, our host city, also offers every opportunity and a top infrastructure for socializing after a long day at the trade fair.

As a leading trade fair, you set the trends. Can you tell us where Kind + Jugend is heading and what we can look forward to in the coming years?

As trade fair organizers, we are currently observing two trends: On the one hand, international trade fairs are experiencing an upswing, precisely because companies are striving for more sustainability. Instead of many customer visits and meetings during the year, retailers are meeting all relevant suppliers at one time and in one place.

On the other hand, regionalization is taking place: What is already a reality in other industries has also been a future topic for Kind + Jugend for some time. There is enormous potential in the growth markets of Latin America and Southeast Asia in particular. With Pueri Expo in Sao Paulo and Kind + Jugend ASEAN as a platform for the Southeast Asian market, we have already gained valuable experience here.

When it comes to content, companies will continue to focus on sustainability – this will drive innovation and we can look forward to many new things! As an example, I'll mention time-of-use: "Growing along" products are becoming increasingly popular and are being offered in more and more areas of our industry. The trends of "renting instead of buying" and smart technologies will also certainly continue to grow and give rise to new business models. I am sure that many of these will be presented for the first time at Kind + Jugend in the coming years!

Sustainability has no longer been a trend for a long time, but almost standard. How and in which areas does Kind + Jugend live sustainability at the trade fair?

Sustainability is increasingly becoming an important factor in purchasing decisions. Accordingly, the proportion of our exhibitors who specifically focus on environmentally friendly materials and certified pollutant-free products is growing. There is also a lot going on in the field of packaging technology.

As hosts, we honor the most innovative ideas by presenting the "World of Sustainability for Kids" award as part of the Innovation Award, and the Trend Forum also focuses on sustainability as a theme.

Of course, we want to set a good example and not just talk about sustainability. We strive to minimize the trade fair's ecological footprint, for example, by doing away with carpeting or using biodegradable alternatives.

You have spoken several times about the connection between sustainability and innovation. How does Kind + Jugend promote innovative ideas and young companies?

Our start-up Area, which is reserved for young and newly founded companies with their often impressively innovative ideas, is already fully booked! We are very pleased about this; after all, it is a nice proof that our industry is tremendously attractive for founders. Since Kind + Jugend is part of the program launched by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection to promote the participation of young innovative companies in leading international trade fairs in Germany, entrepreneurs from Germany can even take advantage of funding. This offer is very popular!

Last but not least, we offer the best ideas a big stage with the Innovation Award – and these ideas are of course welcome to come from start-ups!