The Vodka Report - Vodka in travel retail

08 July, 2015

“We believe this new experienced partner will ensure Stolichnaya’s further growth in China, where our sales grew by 22% last year in the domestic market,” says Stoli global duty free and travel retail director Jean-Philippe Aucher. 

He adds that super and ultra-premium members of the Stoli brand family, such as Elit by Stolichnaya and the Elit Pristine Water Series are expected to do especially well in China’s duty free. In Cannes last year SPI unveiled the latest incarnation of its elit Pristine Water Series: the Andean Edition, made with mineral-rich water sourced from Colico Lake in Chile, presented in a Glencairn crystal decanter and priced at Ä3,000 (£2,155). 

The Edrington Group is, of course, best known for its scotch whisky portfolio, especially The Macallan, which is revered in Asia. Yet the company also owns Snow Leopard vodka (see profile in this month’s Drinks International), which managed to gain a listing with Mongolian Airlines last September. This year Edrington has launched the vodka at a number of Asian hubs, such as Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, Taipei Taoyuan, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. 

Customers who purchase Snow Leopard vodka at any of these airports receive a hand-woven snow leopard ornament, made in Mongolia by women in rural herding communities. 

Twelve countries participate in Edrington’s Snow Leopard Enterprises programme – a scheme run by the Snow Leopard Trust which provides training and equipment to enable communities who share the snow leopard’s habitat to make handmade items from the raw wool of their livestock. 

“Snow Leopard vodka is built on a unique vision and has a compelling story,” says Ryan Hill, Edrington Asia travel retail managing director. “Communicating these actively through customer interaction and sampling is key in our growth strategy for the brand and one which is proving successful to date. Asia remains a less mature market for the vodka category, but one which has major growth potential.” 

While the likes of LVMH’s Belvedere (+12.1%) and Diageo’s Cîroc (+68.1%) both performed very well in GTR in 2013, Grey Goose remains the top-selling brand in this tier. The Bacardi-owned brand increased its sales by 21% in 2013, according to the latest IWSR figures. This barnstorming performance helped deliver more than two-thirds of the growth of the entire super-premium vodka category. 

The brand’s major activity in 2015 was undoubtedly the launch of Grey Goose VX – a blend of 95% Grey Goose vodka and 5% grand champagne cognac presented in a heavy cognac-style decanter and luxury outer gift box. Priced at £89 – more than double that of standard Grey Goose and exclusive in GTR from July to September last year – Grey Goose VX was an audacious attempt for vodka to play at the same ultra-premium level as cognac and scotch whisky. To help support this ambitious luxury positioning Bacardi GTR developed an elaborate tasting ritual for Grey Goose VX, which was painstakingly recreated at key international hub airports over the second half of last year. 

Uniformed brand ambassadors wearing blue waistcoats and white gloves would lead consumer engagement, explaining the unique story behind the brand. At the same time they would perform a theatrical perfect serve as they extracted the spirit from the decanter using elaborate glass pipettes (a serving ritual borrowed from the cognac business). 

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