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Spoga+gafa thrills in new exhibition center

Fully booked with exhibitors and recording excellent visitor numbers, Spoga+gafa 2006 was held in Cologne, Germany, at the expanded Koelnmesse exhibition center. Close to 50,000 trade visitors from 103 countries attended the global business platform.

"Innovations, proximity to markets, international contacts — everything was perfect for visitors and exhibitors," said Oliver P. Kuhrt, executive vice president of Koelnmesse.

The new exhibition centre enabled a restructuring of the product groups at Spoga+gafa — a step met with approval from both visitors and exhibitors. The 2,456 suppliers (77% from outside Germany) came from 64 countries and occupied the entire exhibition center, presenting new products in the five new product groups — Outdoor Living, Indoor/Outdoor Ambience, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Technology and Equestrian Sports.

The Outdoor Living area presented a very upbeat mood, enthusiasm for innovative collections and an impressive international character. Exhibitors welcomed buyers from the full spectrum of sales channels, including a growing number from the specialist furniture trade.

Wicker is expected to be a trend for the 2007 season. Demand continues to be strong for combinations of materials like wood, wicker, woven textiles, stainless steel and aluminum, as well as colors that were a hit at Spoga, like classy black and pure white, in addition to nature-inspired tones including apple green, orange, aqua and blackberry.

Enthusiasm was high among large-scale producers and specialists in high-price barbecue segments. In Germany, charcoal grilling is still the most popular form of barbecue. Here, the need for replacement was often fulfilled by gas barbecues, which are slowly gaining market share. Suppliers of charcoal and barbecue fuels are resisting the trend, for example, with ready-packaged compact briquettes that, when ignited without additional firelighters, produce glowing coals in just 15 minutes. Outdoor kitchens are becoming an increasingly important part of manufacturers' product line-ups, although forecasts indicated their sales potential is rather limited.

"The trend in grilling and barbecue is clearly toward higher-quality products," said Kurt Schlieper, managing director of the Grillverband barbecue and grilling equipment manufacturers association. "Gourmet grilling is very popular. The fully-equipped outdoor kitchen, however, will remain a marginal, though important, segment."

Koelnmesse presented awards during the show to the three products judged as most innovative in the barbecue products and accessories category. Napoleon received first place for its Prestige 2 with gas infrared burners. Second and third place went to Riedl's mobile cooking station and Outdoor Chef's St. Tropez outdoor kitchen, respectively. In the accessories category, Camping Gaz received first place for its camping cooker; Thuros Handels & Co. second place for its barbecue top, and Jepson Trading third place for a starter.

Spoga 2007 will be held Sept. 2–4, 2007.

The Netherlands company Freeline International displayed a contemporary woven group against a playful backdrop.

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