Beam Suntory starts to ‘take leadership’ in GTR

12th April, 2016 by Kristiane Sherry

Eighteen months on from the formation of Beam Suntory Global Travel Retail and managing director David Wilson is still smiling despite the difficult backdrop.


David Wilson, managing director of Beam Suntory’s recently formed global travel retail unit

*This feature was first published in the October 2015 issue of The Spirits Business magazine

What a difference a year makes – an axiom that rings particularly true for Beam Suntory. Just before the 2014 TFWA World Exhibition the company announced the cessation of its Maxxium Travel Retail joint venture with Edrington. The distribution partnership had acted as a successful brand building vehicle in the businesses’ major travel retail markets; its termination a direct result of Suntory’s US$16 billion (£10.5bn) acquisition of Illinois-based Beam, which promptly formed the third largest spirits company in the world.

From those embryonic days, Beam Suntory Global Travel Retail (GTR) is now a fully developed – and fully integrated – entity within the wider business. Although headquartered in Madrid, the GTR operation is now split into three regional hubs: Miami, Singapore/Sydney and London.

Consumer led focus

This approach, says an unwaveringly upbeat David Wilson, managing director global travel retail, reflects the ethos of the new model: “Be more customer focused and customer led.”

“Overall, it’s been a very positive year,” he says, reflecting on the first 12 months as a stand-alone global TR operation post-Maxxium. “We’re increasingly sharp at point-of-purchase being able to look at our core: Bourbon, single malt and Cognac.”

By identifying and focusing on these key categories, Wilson is confident that Beam Suntory can “start to take greater leadership” – a term he uses throughout the interview.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the firm’s heritage, Bourbon has been front and centre over the past few months. Bourbon Legends, a global campaign which shines a spotlight on the company’s past and present products, kicked off in GTR in August with a major activation at Frankfurt in partnership with Heinemann. “It builds an authenticity of Bourbon,” he affirms. “Global travel retail is a fantastic place to showcase brands and create consumer impact.”

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