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RTDs take off in travel retail

Ready-to-drink (RTD) serves haven’t typically fared well in travel retail, but ‘bar-quality’ products are changing perceptions.

rtds in travel retail

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

“Coming in a canned format, RTDs [ready-to-drink] are suited to ferry companies and cruise ships, but not necessarily airports because the unit cost is too low,” says Barry Geoghegan, founder of Duty Free Global. But with high-end examples, such as the Handy & Schiller Old Fashioned made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon that he represents, that may be changing.

“It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of a bar-quality cocktail in an RTD would have been laughed out of the room,” says Rob Wallis, co-founder of canned cocktail brand Moth. In airports, he admits “there’s a bit of catching up to do”, but with airlines, given their strict targets on sustainability, he says: “It’s low-hanging fruit if RTDs can be part of the solution. Flying glass bottles through the air is absolutely insane when you can use aluminium.”

So far Moth has secured listings on British Airways and Iceland Air, where, as Wallis puts it: “Rather than pay for a first-class seat, you can have a first-class cocktail.”

With its Espresso Martini and French 75, he says both are “pretty bold on flavour, so they come out really well at altitude. He adds: “People are not expecting a 5% ABV sugary thing, they want a proper cocktail. People have higher expectations after Covid.”

Italian RTD brand NIO Cocktails, which has individual drinks in CD-sized ‘postcards’, would agree with that statement. “We have always strongly believed that NIO Cocktails could be the perfect product for travel retail, because it not only offers a practical solution to make top-quality cocktail bars portable, but it also serves as a great souvenir and gift,” says co-founder Alessandro Palmarin. So far, the brand has secured GTR listings in the US, Vietnam, and Singapore, and has just started a test launch with Heinemann in Germany.

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

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