DFA Group sets its sights on e-commerce expansion

By Luke Barras-hill |


There is sizeable potential to cross-fertilise customer data harvested from Paneco.com with DFA’s existing travel retail business on a global scale.

Alcohol e-commerce platform Paneco.com can be used as springboard to conquer new shopping categories and harness consumer loyalty in travel retail, Duty Free Americas (DFA) owner Falic Group has told TRBusiness.

Devised by DFA President Leon Falic and launched in December 2015, the online alcohol delivery service has grown its reach into domestic markets in LATAM, Europe and Asia – including in Colombia, Panama, Holland, Israel and Singapore.

Now, the Group is scaling up investment by growing its research and development team into another major Asian market to build stronger IT capabilities for the Group – and open up new markets.

“The data that we have is a goldmine,” revealed Paneco.com and Black CEO (DFA APAC) Jonathan Cohen. “We can apply some of this into our duty free business; one possibility is to leverage on the data and link between those passengers who bought online in the domestic market and proceed to communicate with them in travel retail.”

“We are trying to digitize the whole business. You can pre-order now with DFA in the US, but we are developing the capability and capacity to do something much bigger in a global network.”


Jonathan Cohen, CEO, Paneco.com and Black (DFA APAC) is spearheading the Group’s ambitious expansion in Asia.


Paneco.com, which operates as a B2C website in domestic markets [see below Paneco.com video], sells 1,000s of skus covering liquor, wines, spirits, champagne and beer available for complimentary next day delivery or express same-day delivery ($5 surcharge).

Cohen makes clear that DFA is not currently cross-fertilising its Paneco.com business with duty free, but the potential is clear given the platform’s IT capabilities.

It uses its own proprietary inventory management IP system and software, which provides DFA Group with a huge amount of data on buyer purchasing habits in different markets – what they look for pre-purchase, where they live, their gender and frequency of purchase – to assist the procurement decision.

Data is captured in a number of ways including direct marketing exercises and triangulation by combining existing database information, in effect creating a machine-learning product that translates purchasing trends to listing and price point decisions based on pre-arranged margins.

Cohen reveals plans to roll out Paneco.com to another major country – likely in Asia Pacific – by the end of the year.

“We are interested in all segments,” he continued. “The group is big enough that we can conquer new areas and categories and that gives us leverage if we start an operation in a country with ecommerce to develop the network, then go into the travel retail business.

“For instance, you might choose to buy from Paneco.com in Singapore and then we offer you the chance to buy in one of our travel retail locations; we know your preference and can give you a coupon. There is a lot of cross marketing and potential conversion between the segments.”

Since launching in 2016, Paneco.com has grown ‘very fast’ and exceeded expectations in terms of growth, adds Cohen.

Due to differing tax regimes and regulation, each country establishes its own separate platform and DFA claims Paneco.com is a ‘major player’ in Singapore’s e-commerce alcohol delivery market.

“We’re not just selling the product with the best price and widest assortment; we’re putting a lot of emphasis on content. When you pick your product you can read a lot… expert reviews and related products to give you information. We are alcohol connoisseurs.

“We leverage our procurement size, so initially the pricing is better and we can pass the saving to the consumer.”

Stephen Jacob, Chief Marketing Officer, Paneco.com added: “The positioning of the brand is we want to provide all products like a superstore but the packaging gives the idea of a premium experience – I would call it affordable luxury.”


Indeed, DFA has been upping its business activity in Asia in recent years via subsidiary DFA Singapore.

In December, it opened the first retail store in its luxury coffee boutique franchise Black Barista Coffee World at Singapore Changi Airport.

Measuring approximately 50sq m, Black Barista Coffee World is positioned as a premium experience aimed at global coffee connoisseurs, merchandising more than 60 types of coffee beans from the top growing regions including Asia, Africa, South and Central America at a variety of price points.


The 50sq m Black Barista Coffee World outlet opened at Singapore Changi Airport in December.

“Right now there are 60-plus types of bean and many accessories but we are developing capsules to machines to fulfil all your needs for premium coffee,” commented Cohen.

According to Cohen, the concept engenders an artisan approach similar to whisky in terms of its tasting notes – blended or single estate for example – and elegant packaging.

“We looked at the market segment and metrics and saw the growth in consumption in China – Japan is also huge,” commented Cohen on the potential for Asian expansion.

He tells TRBusiness there is significant opportunity to grow the franchise, with plans to enter another major Asian country before the end of the year.

The plan is to open multiple shops globally at major locations/airports and DFA is understood to be actively seeking out concession opportunities in Asia Pacific, although the Group is playing its cards close to its chest when asked by TRBusiness to provide specifics.


There are significant opportunities to grow the Black premium coffee franchise, with plans to enter another major Asian country before the end of the year.

“We really believe in this business and this region; we see the opportunity so are putting a lot of emphasis in terms of growth,” added Cohen.

At this stage, the business is purely engineered towards core retailing, but Cohen hasn’t ruled out combining retail with a coffee shop model, which brews and sells onsite.

* [Main image] A Duty Free Americas store at Miami International Airport.


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