The Vodka Report - Vodka in travel retail

08 July, 2015

Other props intended to add to the luxurious feel of the launch included silver trays, cognac glasses, white napkins, ice buckets, tongs and a traditional French toast of “Santé” when the traveller sampled the product. 

Over the initial launch period, 211,000 travellers sampled Grey Goose VX at 16 major international hub airports in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia. To support this ambitious sampling programme Bacardi GTR embarked on a huge global programme of staff training, encompassing 45 airports worldwide, including locations where vodka traditionally has a low profile, such as Beijing and Johannesburg. 

The vodka category is dominated by a handful of big brands. The top five-selling brands in 2013 – Absolut, Smirnoff, Finlandia, Grey Goose and Russian Standard – accounted for more than 65% of all vodka sales volumes in the channel. 

Nonetheless, the brand-building power of travel retail continues to attract smaller brands. A case in point is Crystal Skull vodka, the Canadian brand created by Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters star Dan Ackroyd, which made its first appearance at the TFWA Asia Pacific exhibition in Singapore in May. The quadruple-distilled vodka, which is filtered seven times through semi-precious crystals, has grown sales to 6.5m bottles since its launch in 2007, but the majority of its business is still done Stateside. 

Brand owner Globefill is convinced gaining duty free listings overseas is a great way to seed the distinctively packaged brand in new markets. “Our limited regional distribution in domestic markets makes Crystal Head a perfect fit for duty free,” says Brian Meret, Globefill vice-president Caribbean, Latin American and global travel retail. “Currently we have a strong duty free presence in Australia with Gebr Heinemann and New Zealand with DFS Group but have limited exposure in the rest of the [Asia Pacific) region. We only entered the region within the past two years so there is a long way to grow both in domestic and duty free.” 

Vodka looks to have an assured future in global travel retail, especially at the super-premium end of the category. The sector grew three times faster than the overall spirits business in travel retail in 2013 and delivered value growth of $17m (£10.8m). Emerging markets such as Asia will remain a prime focus for super-premium players but brands with a strong heritage and provenance are likely to gain ground in other regions too.

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