Craft Spirits Report II
In this section, we ask a selection of brand owners and representatives about the role of craft spirits in the travel retail mix today, and assess some of their latest category innovations.
How do you assess the appetite for craft spirits in travel retail as the industry emerges from the pandemic? What role can craft products play in creating a point of difference for the channel?
Halewood Artisanal Spirits Head of Global Travel Retail Eamon Prunty: There’s certainly a significant appetite for craft spirits in travel retail now that the channel has opened up again. We know that when people are travelling, they’re looking to be inspired with new and exciting products and are open to trading up their usual purchases.
Our range of craft spirits from Whitley Neill gin and Dead Man’s Fingers rum, with their extensive variety of flavours and eye-catching bottle designs are perfectly placed to tap into this opportunity.
Halewood Artisanal Spirits’ portfolio includes Whitley Neill Gin, JJ Whitley vodka and Dead Man’s Fingers rum, along with artisanal whiskies including Crabbie’s, Samuel Gelston’s and Aber Falls (pictured)
Tito’s Handmade Vodka Managing Director International John McDonnell: Spirits drinkers – especially younger consumers – love craft spirits, and because of that it’s really in retailers’ best interests to devote more shelf space to craft brands. And I’m talking about all categories, not just gin. There’s a disproportionate amount of space in many stores for craft gin.
JP Global Travel Retail Founder Jean-Philippe Aucher: The appetite is still there and will carry on increasing. This is the same long-term trend as premiumisation (which is linked to the craft trend). The question is: are retailers ready to consider listing a lot of new craft spirits brands that are very often by definition small brands, pretty young (often launched just before or during COVID) and therefore with very low brand awareness?
Being different, distinctive, and disruptive is the key trilogy to being successful in travel retail. Moreover, new categories such NoLo or RTD are seeing more and more crafted spirits. I have two good examples in the brand portfolio I represent: Mahala Botanical, a no-alcohol spirit crafted in South-Africa and Le Barteleur, premium RTD cocktails crafted in France.
Super-premium gin Brockman's sold more than one million bottles in domestic markets across 55 countries last year, following a significant marketing investment, and declared an ambition to grow in travel retail
Duty Free Global Founder & Commercial Director Barry Geoghegan: We have found a real appetite from operators to get behind craft products and champion them. They are particularly interested in the story behind the brand, the care and attention given to the production, where they hail from and the sustainability aspect. Craft products highlighted in travel retail give a clear message that the channel is relevant, paying attention and keeping up with trends to meet evolving consumer needs.
Clear message: Silent Pool, represented by Duty Free Global in travel retail
Choya Senior Manager Seiji Susuki: Many travellers are not only looking for something different in travel retail but also want to experience something new.
If craft spirits can give such opportunities through distinguished taste and a special drinking experience, craft spirits will catch on among in and outbound travellers.
Our view is that our craft liqueur Choya can offer this new experience. We are studying the new taste from the fermentation process created by Choya Ume yeast. Consumers can experience the natural flavour from the Ume fruit liqueur and the new taste of Ume fruit wine developed under the fermentation process from the unique Ume yeast.
With retailers having cut back on their ranges during the pandemic, how challenging is it for independent brands and emerging spirits names to make an impact?
Eamon Prunty (Halewood): The pandemic has presented a number of challenges, but in terms of continuing to make an impact for our brands, we’ve been very lucky. For example, since the channel opened up again, we’ve expanded our GTR offering with the addition of new Whitley Neill flavours across Dufry UK, and secured new international listings for Whitley Neill, Dead Man’s Fingers and Aber Falls with Heinemann. We’ve also welcomed new contracts across the portfolio with a number of leading airlines and cruise companies, so it’s a really exciting time for us.
Barry Geoghegan (Duty Free Global): We’re finding retailers are quite open to taking on new independent brands as they’re looking to freshen up their range and offer new brands to passengers. They are interested in a partnership approach to see how best to launch and ensure emerging brands are visible in-store. Digital is important and a strong social media presence helps to tell the story behind the brand.
John McDonnell (Tito’s): It’s very challenging. For example, as we’re nearing Cannes we’ve been reaching out to retailers to set meetings at the show, and we’re being told by some of them that they’re only meeting with major suppliers. That’s incredibly disappointing. We’re making a commitment to show up at Cannes with a stand for Tito’s Handmade Vodka, just as we did last year too. We’re supporting this industry, as we all should be.
Jean-Philippe Aucher (JP GTR): This is extremely challenging, and I am in this precise situation. However, if your brand portfolio is different, super-premium and unique enough, there is a chance. 2022 is a year of transition. We thought that the post-COVID travel retail business would boom faster than it has considering the new challenges we face (inflation, the invasion of Ukraine). However, the pace is now accelerating, 2023 looks far better than 2022 and the retailers are reopening.
Seiji Susuki (Choya): If the brand is popular in the market, their products should be listed. While a small brand with low sales volume risks not being selected for listing, it is important that we can explain our product value to customers. Choya can meet their needs and the sales display will be well-organised. We have to focus on boosting the product value and then its value will be widely known.
How is your brand positioned to take advantage of changing consumer purchasing trends and curiosity about new spirits products?
John McDonnell (Tito’s): One of the trends we’re seeing is increasing consumer interest in smaller formats. For example, I was recently through Dublin Airport and our Tito’s 200ml bottle is very strong there. Airlines started this trend by pulling back, or not serving alcohol at all, on many domestic and international flights.
Barry Geoghegan (Duty Free Global): Our craft spirits partners tend to be positioned in the premium-plus price categories. This is more appealing to the travel retailer as they want to try and upsell their consumers from more mass-produced global brands, particularly in the gin category. We have a number of craft gin brands sitting above the €40 mark. They also play in the self-treat trend as these are real design-led collector bottles. They also have strong sustainability credentials which consumers are seeking out. We also have a selection of small formats and fun novelties which are more impulse purchases.
Eamon Prunty (Halewood): The gins and rums across our Whitley Neill and Dead Man’s Fingers ranges provide shoppers with a wide variety of on-trend flavours which tap into consumer in demand for innovative new products and flavours. With shoppers also placing increased importance on the heritage and provenance of the brands that they consume, it’s also great for us to be able to highlight our brand homes at the City of London Distillery (Whitley Neill) and The Bristol and Bath Rum Distillery (Bristol and Bath Rum Distillery) throughout our brand communications.
From a whisky perspective, our Aber Falls whisky also provides a great option for shoppers who are curious about new products and flavours. This is the first single malt to be produced in North Wales for over 100 years, and is unique in both its production and its taste. Working with local farmers, we use only authentic Welsh malted barley and fresh Welsh water, and our recipes have been meticulously built to highlight the quality of these spectacular ingredients.
Jean-Philippe Aucher (JP GTR): Brockmans Gin is the backbone of my portfolio, and I also have mentioned Le Barteleur (RTD) and Mahala botanical (NoLo). I have other brands that fit category dynamics: Mijenta super-premium Tequila, aged premium rum from Cuba (Black Tears Spiced Rum, La Progressiva Vigia 13yo) or Jamaica (Navy Island XO reserve and Navy Strength). I will finish with the craft spirits Made in France such a Yu Gin, Bistro vodka or Amaethon Single Malt whisky. I know it takes time but I feel confident with such brand partners.
Seiji Susuki (Choya): We are committed to spreading the goodness of umeshu, Japanese traditional fruit liqueur, to customers all over the world. It is known as a healthy liquor and has been loved by Japanese people. We hope customers enjoy umeshu more fashionably and casually. People are now more than ever conscious of their health and we believe that umeshu fits with the trend.
Crafting a fresh twist on a market-leading gin
Bacardi Global Travel Retail is making its contribution to craft and innovation via its spirits portfolio, from rum and gin to single malt whisky.
Its latest premium gin innovation is Bombay Sapphire Sunset, now launching across global travel markets as part of a series of limited-edition line extensions. Bombay Sapphire is the number one premium gin in travel retail (IWSR 2021), growing at +45% by value last year compared to 2020. It is the world’s number one premium gin by value and volume (IWSR 2021).
The style of Sunset is inspired by the mellow heat and orange glow of the setting sun. It also accentuates the gin’s flavour notes with three additional, sustainably sourced botanicals. Golden turmeric, Indian white cardamom and Spanish mandarin combine with the existing ten botanicals in the creation of the brand to offer what Bacardi Global Travel Retail calls “a complex but beautifully balanced, vibrant gin”.
This is the second gin in the brand’s series of Special Editions, following the launch of Bombay Sapphire English Estate in 2019. Master of Botanicals Ivano Tonutti selects each botanical for each new gin, with the Special Editions helping to showcase the “ingenuity and versatility” of Bombay Sapphire, according to the brand owner.
Ivano Tonutti said: “I have worked closely with our Master Distiller Dr. Anne Brock to create a subtle combination of warming spices and citrus notes that truly enhance the complex flavour profile of Bombay Sapphire gin, providing a lingering warmth and refreshing taste. Bombay Sapphire Sunset balances the spices of the cardamom and turmeric together with bittersweet sun-dried Spanish mandarin delivering aromatic spice and warmth, just like those last rays of sunshine at the end of the day.”
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