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Vodka holds strong in travel retail

While vodka’s performance in travel retail over the past year hasn’t been quite as spectacular as categories such as gin or Tequila, it continues to be a significant player in this channel.

vodka in travel retail

*This feature was originally published in the September 2023 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.

Volumes between 2021 and 2022 grew by 68%, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, marginally outperforming the total spirits category’s growth of 67% over that time.

It is continuing to benefit from a variety of drinks trends of the past few years. “The lockdown-enforced boom in home cocktail making has had an effect on sales in duty free and travel retail as well as domestic sales, with a rise in the number of customers choosing products such as Tequilas, vodkas and liqueurs,” explains a spokesperson for the Tax Free World Association (TFWA).

“Travelling consumers are often more eager to experiment as part of their travel experience, and are happy to look beyond products they normally buy. They might choose a different brand or be tempted by a category they wouldn’t usually purchase.”

Absolut Vodka was among the brands featured in Pernod Ricard GTR’s recent activation, entitled New Time Zone, Same Cocktail Hour, focusing exclusively on its white spirits. Building on that trend for at-home cocktails, and squarely targeted at Millennials and Gen Z, pop-ups were located in airports everywhere from Sydney to New York. With Absolut “championing quality mixed drinks for all”, alongside brands like Beefeater Gin and Malibu, the activation focused on cocktails and easy-to-replicate serves.

Meanwhile, a number of vodka brands have set their sights on travel retail, aiming to build on their success in other markets. Among these is the UK’s Au Vodka, working with GMAX Travel Retail, and White Claw Premium Vodka, which announced its introduction into B&S Group’s duty free airport stores this year, and more recently teamed up with DFS Group to make its vodka brand available in select US airports.

Vodka might not be the fastest-growing category in travel retail but launches such as these suggest there’s still plenty to play for.

Find an overview of the whole spirits travel retail market here.

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