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Gin in travel retail: back in action

Having been dealt a blow by the pandemic shutdowns, gin producers are looking forward to the resurgence in travel retail.

Gin is gathering pace in the travel retail channel

*This feature was originally published in the February 2022 edition of The Spirits Business magazine.

For a category that remains in the midst of a prolonged international resurgence, the past couple of pandemic-disrupted years have been hugely frustrating for gin in travel retail. Nonetheless, brand owners are determined to stick with the channel, ever mindful of its huge sales and marketing potential – particularly if 2022 is to witness a much-anticipated recovery in passenger numbers.

“Travel retail continues to be a strategically important brand-building channel for the Bacardí portfolio of premium spirits brands,” says Vinay Golikeri, managing director of Bacardí Global Travel Retail (GTR), owner of Bombay Sapphire – the number one gin in the channel with a 22.3% share of the premium gin segment (IWSR 2020).

“Travel inspires people to try new experiences and discover new tastes – and that excites us as a business. This is particularly true in GTR – it’s a discovery channel where consumers look for products they can’t find back home.”

Inevitably, given the prevailing trends in domestic markets, flavours are playing an increasingly significant role for gin in GTR, with Bombay Sapphire’s berry-infused Bramble variant aiming to exploit what Golikeri describes as “explosive growth”.

Others are following suit, including Ian Macleod Distillers’ Edinburgh Gin, with full-strength flavoured expressions such as Gooseberry & Elderflower, Rhubarb & Ginger, Lemon & Jasmine, and Raspberry.

“Gin has really picked up in recent months, especially flavoured gin,” says William Ovens, GTR director at Ian Macleod Distillers. “As the pioneers of the flavoured gin category, Edinburgh Gin is enjoying playing its part in this.”

But the company’s flavour focus doesn’t stop there, he adds. “Our flavoured gin liqueurs are number one in the world in that category, and remain highly popular – I think part of the appeal is the flexibility of serve – they can be served on the rocks, with sparkling wine, or with lemonade or tonic. At 20% ABV, they also appeal to consumers wanting a deeply flavoursome but lower-ABV option.”

Flavours are also a key part of the mix for Quintessential Brands, owner of the likes of Opihr, Bloom, Greenall’s and Thomas Dakin, alongside digital campaigns and in-store merchandising, such as the new Opihr marketing campaign, Let The Taste Take You There.

“It can take some time to see what is working well domestically represented in travel retail stores, but in the case of flavoured gin, its success domestically has certainly influenced buyers who are keen to replicate this phenomenal success in travel retail,” says Oliver Storrie, commercial manager, Quintessential Brands – GTR.

“That’s evident from the amount of space dedicated to flavoured gin today – it helps that, with many of them being coloured gins, they allow for eye-catching displays, which is so important in travel retail.”

Shaking things up: Bombay Sapphire

Whether selling flavours, liqueurs or core expressions, the pandemic has focused minds among brand owners on how to make the most of the channel.

“It is always necessary to make a differentiation between the range we offer in the travel retail channel and the products we have in the domestic market,” says Alicia Jiménez Franco, travel retail and duty free manager at Spain’s Zamora Company, owner of Martin Miller’s Gin.

“This could be a special price, a GTR-exclusive, specific formats. The idea is that we are always offering consumers a reason to purchase in this channel rather than ‘at home’.”

Jiménez Franco also cites visibility on shelf, with travel retail being such a huge marketing opportunity on a global scale, as well as getting travellers to taste your product via sampling activations.

“Samplings conducted by well-trained staff have always been very effective for us in terms of selling out stock,” she says.

“The chance to try a product and check its quality right before purchase is second to none, and also gives staff a chance to communicate the benefits of, and story behind a brand.”

An optimistic note

Europe, and Spain in particular, remain Martin Miller’s and Zamora’s best-performing region. Trends elsewhere remain patchy, but Jiménez Franco sounds an optimistic note about the months ahead.

“The recovery in central and northern Europe is slower, as there are still so many restrictions in place, but fortunately a large part of Zamora’s travel retail business is focused on Spain – then on Brazil and Mexico, and when restrictions are removed here, we expect promising results.”

Others, including Ovens, highlight the post-Brexit return of duty free sales between the UK and the European Union, which he describes as “clearly a huge opportunity”.

Storrie agrees. “Brexit has had a significant impact for the duty free liquor business as prices have reduced dramatically across Europe when travelling to and from the UK,” he points out.

“Although we are seeing a reduction in passenger numbers, the conversion rate of passenger purchasing has dramatically increased. This bodes well for the future.”

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