3 Questions to: Anja Dame-Matsumoto (Takagi Co., Ltd.)

The Japanese family enterprise Takagi has more than 50 years of experience in producing metal and plastic injection moulds for the industry. In 1980 they expanded their product range with watering products for home and garden. Today Takagi is the market leader in this industry in Japan. Their name stands for innovative high-quality irrigation technology.

Takagi’s first representative office in Europe was founded in 2012. Anja Dame-Matsumoto coordinates the brand development from the European Takagi Co., Ltd. office in Düsseldorf, Germany. She has lived in Japan for 26 years.

Mrs. Dame-Matsumoto, in Japan Takagi is selling faucets for bathrooms and kitchens among other things. Why do you reduce your European product range to irrigation systems for gardens, balconies and terraces?
Dame-Matsumoto: We think that our market entry in Europe will be most successful with our irrigation systems, because we see a great demand for well-functioning and high-quality tools. Gardening is a hot topic, especially in Europe. And we distinguish ourselves from other producers because we offer new and innovative solutions for the urban gardener with small spaces.

What are the main differences between the European and the Japanese market?
Dame-Matsumoto: There are fundamental differences. A large part of the inhabitants in Japan lives in densely populated areas where they have very small balconies and rarely more than 50 square metres of space available for a garden. On this limited space the Japanese people care for and water their herbs and plants very lovingly. When watering, it is very important that the soil doesn’t splash around and that the flowers and leaves of the often precious and fragile plants don’t get damaged. The hose drum is not supposed to take up much space, because there are almost no storage areas. Another factor is the climate. During summer the humidity is very high and the temperatures are around 40 degrees. No Japanese wants to be in the garden at those times. Because of their short vacations – one week maximum at a time – there is no great demand for watering during holidays. There is also a difference in the consumer base. In Japan our customers are mainly women, this is why all our tools and accessories are designed for ergonomics, easy handling and absolute waterproofness.

You prefer the specialised trades distributing your irrigation systems in Europe, why is that?
Dame-Matsumoto: We only manufacture products of very high quality with a long lifespan that are not sold because they are cheap. We offer the specialised traders a range which satisfies demanding customers. The specialised trades also appreciate our low complaint rate of 0.03 per cent in Japan. Because we are new on the European market and not that well-known yet, it is also very important for us that the customers are being well informed at the point of sale.

Further information: eu.takagi.co.jp

3 Questions to: Sonja Dümmen (Dümmen GmbH)

The Rheinberg-based company Dümmen Group is consistently expanding its sustainability strategy. In future they will supply fair trade poinsettias under the Red Fox brand to their international pot plant producers. Thus Dümmen will answer the widely shared desire for an ethical, transparent production chain. Sonja Dümmen is Head of Marketing at Dümmen GmbH and is managing the Fairtrade project.

Mrs. Dümmen, what are the reasons why the Dümmen Group will soon be selling poinsettias from your farm Red Fox Ethiopia as a Fairtrade product?
Dümmen: The Fairtrade Mark renders visible our way of working and what we represent. It records monitored working conditions and a responsible approach to plant protection and the environment. What is most important, however, is that it provides support for the people locally in Ethiopia. With Fairtrade we have the opportunity to invest 10% of the turnover directly on the ground for the benefit of the people there. The consumers who make a conscious decision to buy here support this initiative by purchasing Fairtrade products.

How can we visualise the certification process? What are the challenges?
Dümmen: All partners in the chain have to be certified, starting with the parent plant production site in Ethiopia, which is inspected by an independent certification organisation. Other links in the chain also have to be certified, however, such as the production plant in Rheinberg and the producers in Europe that raise the poinsettia cuttings. Since we run the production chain centrally, from cultivation to the finished young plant, this is entirely feasible. We only have to create transparency for third parties, which naturally always entails administrative work.

What specific advantages do you see for retailers, nurseries and last but not least for customers?
Dümmen: The advantages for the retail trade are quite clear and are to be found in the transparency of the supply chain. It can always trace Fairtrade products back to their origin and rely on the fact that reliable, inspected suppliers are behind the product. The consumer can buy responsibly and help people in Africa by buying Fairtrade. Transparency is important here too. The customer sees where the cutting comes from, but also who has raised the product to its finished state in Germany or Europe. The customer is also informed about the advantages for our partner businesses: ten percent of the revenue from the cut-tings is for the workers locally in the country of origin to use as they see fit for social purposes. The monitored production conditions create transparency and guarantee a fair process.

Further information: dummengroup.com

3 Questions to: Patty Willems (elho)

elho is a flourishing, family-owned company with over 50 years of experience in making synthetic pottery and related products. Surprise and fun are important aspects for their functional and creative products. Patty Willems is PR & CR manager.

Patty, how important is urban gardening for the elho collection?
Willems: Very important! elho introduced a total new collection around the urban way of living: The loft range, with the urban look & feel, is an enormous success thanks to the growing fan base that intensely enjoys city life and loves fund and leisure while the built in water reservoir ensures beautiful healthy plants that don’t require continual watering. You can sit back and enjoy “the urban way of life”.

Which colours do you promote this seasons?
Willems: Our new colours in the 2015 collection are:

  • Sweet softs like candy pink
  • New yellow: ochre
  • Natural browns like grainy sand
  • New pastels: light bleu and stone grey
  • Changing to soft greens; lime green

What are your most ingenious products for this summer?
Willems: We introduced our 2015 collection in September 2014 at the spoga+gafa. Our new collection will be shown on the next fair in August. At this moment we are working hard to present a great 2016 collection with lots of innovations to surprise our customers. The toppers of the 2015 collection are:

  • Green basics growtable XXL
  • B.for soft air
  • Pure cone serie
  • Balcony innovations like the Corsica easy hanger and loft flowerbridge

 Further information: elho.com

3 Questions to: Bettina Ulrich (brainLight)

Walking around the spoga+gafa can be quite exhausting. So many things to see and so little time. One way to relax your feet on the trade fair grounds is to have a seat at one of the snack stops and cafés, but if you wanted a real relaxing experience, the brainLight stand offered something very special. Bettina Ulrich, brainLight’s head of sales, introduced visitors to some impressive massage chairs and answered some questions for us.

What is the latest model in your range of massage chairs and what are its functions?
The current state of the art in massage chair technology is the brainLight relaxTower with Shiatsu Massage chair 3D FLOAT PLUS. Unlike other massage chairs this one not only works out your back but your hands, feet and legs are involved as well. It has 10 fully automated massage programs and 3 half-automated programs. It comes with special visualization glasses that send out soothing light pulses and together with guided relaxations over the headphones it turns into a full experience for body and mind.

Who are the target audiences for your massage chairs?
The Shiatsu massage chair and the relaxTower are mainly geared towards commercial use. They can be used in hotels, shopping centres, spa-areas, gyms, everywhere, where people can use some quick relaxation. Coin slots are optional in our systems. Of course relaxation at the workplace is a growing topic nowadays, so businesses are also ordering our chairs for their relaxation rooms.

What can you tell me about your company, brainLight?
Our company is in business for 26 successful years now. We not only produce relaxation systems, we also give seminars and information events about relaxation. Our philosophy is it to increase global consciousness, understanding, love and compassion.

Further Information: brainlight.com

3 Questions to: Jan Scannell (“Jan Braai” – National Braai Day of South Africa)

In South Africa, Jan Scannell is better known as Jan Braai, for he is the founder of the “National Braai Day” initiative. Braai is the South African and Namibian way of barbecuing and Scannell wants to establish “Braai Day” on September 24th as a national holiday, where all people unite around the grillfire.

Visitors of the spoga+gafa 2014 will have the chance to see Jan Braai in action: A Braai demonstration starts on Monday, September 1st at 11:30 a.m. in the Grill Park between halls 5.1 and 6 in the BIAG Lounge of the Barbecue Industry Association Grill e.V.

Mr. Scannell, why is it so important for you to introduce a national Braai-Day in South Africa?
Scannell: Braai is the South African word for ‘barbecue’ or ‘grillen’. It’s a very popular past-time in South Africa and one of the few activities that all South Africans like to partake in. This is a country with a rich and diverse heritage but one common heritage, which is to unite around fires. It’s an age old custom from the beginning of time. The National Braai Day initiative aims to unite all South Africans around fires on 24 September every year. This is a nation building initiative, aimed at social cohesion and creating a national day of celebration. 20 years ago Nelson Mandela started a process to unite a nation divided in the past, and the National Braai Day initiative aims to further continue that work by getting all South Africans to sit around fires together that one day per year. In 2014 National Braai Day will be celebrated for the 10th time and an estimated 15 – 20 million people took part in celebrations in 2013.

What are the main differences between a South African Braai and a European grillfest or BBQ?
Scannell: We use real wood fires, braai larger cuts of meat (as opposed to just sausages) and the sun shines in South Africa!

This is your first time at the spoga+gafa garden trade fair. We heard that you are going to produce a film here; can you tell us something about this project?
Scannell: The concept of the television show is about travelling to interesting places in Africa and around the world, exploring the local customs and heritage and then lighting a fire and having a braai. So whilst in Cologne we will naturally visit the spoga+gafa and also look at stuff like the history of Kölnisch Wasser, the Dome of Cologne (which is a world heritage site) and obviously we will go to the banks of the river Rhine and have a braai!

Further Information: braai.com and biag.org