TRAVEL RETAIL HAS LONG BEEN SEEN AS AN IDEAL SHOP WINDOW FOR INTERNATIONAL BRANDS, thanks to its diverse and predominantly affluent customer mix. This inescapable fact hasn’t augured well for brandies with their often local or regional followings. They’ve traditionally struggled to make an impact in this rather elitist retail channel. In contrast, the top five cognac houses have carved out a big following in both mature and emerging markets.
If further proof of this were needed, look no further than the latest IWSR rankings for the top 100-selling spirit brands in travel retail. The highest selling non-cognac on the list in 2013 was Metaxa, which languished in lowly 35th place, whereas Hennessy, the top-selling cognac, occupied ninth spot. There were just five brandies in the top 100: Metaxa, St Rémy, Fundador, Torres and Asbach. Their total duty free sales volumes stood at around 380,000 cases – 100,000 cases fewer than Hennessy managed all by itself.
Nonetheless, travel retail does represent a definite opportunity for popular, well-funded brandies that originate in markets with either a large native customer base or that attract significant numbers of tourists.
A case in point is category leader Metaxa from Greece, owned by Rémy Cointreau and marketed in European travel retail by Maxxium Travel Retail (MTR). In recent years a number of high-profile promotions for Metaxa have been staged in southern European airports, helping to boost sales by a healthy 13.5% in 2013.
At the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes last October, Rémy Cointreau Global Retail unveiled a Ä130 super-premium Metaxa called Metaxa Angels’ Treasure, which will be released as a travel retail exclusive this March for a one-month period before a wider global launch. Named after the lost spirit that evaporates during the maturation process, Angels’ Treasure is a 41% abv blend of aged Muscat wines from the Aegean Islands, aged in French Limousin oak casks.
French brandy St Rémy, another Rémy Cointreau-owned brand, has also prospered in travel retail in the past few years, growing at a time when many stock-constrained cognac brands were on allocation. The brand has prospered by actively promoting higher-priced expressions such as St Rémy Extra Old Reserve Privée in the channel and in 2012 even launching a product exclusively for Dubai Duty Free – St-Rémy VSOP 90 Proof. Incremental sales have also been gained from recent line extensions such as St Rémy à la Crème and St Rémy with French Honey.
As the release of Metaxa Angels’ Treasure and St Rémy VSOP 90 Proof suggest, high-traffic travel retail locations represent an excellent opportunity for brandies to target wealthy passengers with higher-priced products. For instance, La Martiniquaise-Bardinet Group chose the TFWA World Exhibition last year to unveil the super-premium Bardinet XO Grand Cru Wine Cask Finish. Matured in oak barrels and finished in Bordeaux grand cru casks from the AOC Saint-Julien in Medoc, the new 40% abv brandy is the most premium expression to date to join the Bardinet range.