Blueprint reveals strategy for helping clients get a big break in the TR industry

By Faye Bartle |


Members of the Blueprint team from left to right: Karl Walter, Filip Soete, Jens Bonde-Poulsen, and Thomas Henningsen.

Thomas Kaneko Henningsen, Partner, Blueprint shares the strategy that is helping duty free and travel retail (DF&TR) newcomers to break into the industry and the factors driving its 30% year-on-year revenue growth.

As industry newcomers may attest to, gaining a foothold in the duty free and travel retail (DF&TR) market, and achieving steady growth, can be a daunting prospect. However, there is a growing network of businesses that can offer a vital helping hand to those in need of guidance and support.

One such venture is Blueprint, the Copenhagen based business development agency, which has seen its revenue grow by an average of 30% year-on-year since 2019 – despite the challenges of the Covid era.

“The pandemic hit us with full force,” said Thomas Kaneko Henningsen, Partner, Blueprint.

“It quickly became a humble lesson on how to thrive amid adversity. We learned that adaptability, determination, persistence, and a good sense of humour go a long way.”

Staying focused on developing the company’s value proposition and adopting a ‘can-do’ mindset, however, has helped to propel the company to greater heights.

“We are better off today because the Blueprint concept has been tried and tested during the most challenging times the travel retail channel has seen,” he said. “As for 2023 and beyond, change will be the only constant. We are optimistic that travel retail is bouncing back because it is resilient.

“The industry is positive and committed towards elevating the customer experience. In many ways the pandemic ushered in a new era, a ‘new normal’ if you like where there is more focus on delivering extraordinary customer experiences.”


Joe & The Juice, a Blueprint partner since 2022,  has 335 stores worldwide – 22 of which are located in airports.

Blueprint’s best advice for brands, products and service providers looking to break into the DF&TR market for the first time is simple yet effective.

“Firstly, companies need to commit 100% to travel retail. Otherwise, I’d say don’t do it,” revealed Henningsen. “The reason being that the travel retail channel attracts the very best companies, the competition is intense and market entry barriers are significant.

“Secondly, it’s important to focus on extraordinary products and services with a strong digital footprint.

“Finally, companies must acknowledge that the travel retail channel is different from domestic and online channels, and adjust business models and operating models accordingly. Those brands, products and services that do succeed have the opportunity to build a new business unit engaging billions of travellers worldwide.

“Throughout all of this, it’s wise to be patient as a long-term travel retail business takes time to build and manage.”

Navigating a rapidly changing customer landscape

Drawing on its experience of consulting for over 40 clients in different categories in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific (APAC), to develop and implement go-to-market plans that are tailor-made to the client’s objectives and resources, Blueprint likes to stay a step ahead when it comes to spotting opportunities for growth in travel retail.

Currently, there are a number of opportunities on the radar that are being unlocked.

“At the very core of this sits the rapidly changing customer landscape,” said Henningsen. “Industry research concludes that by 2028, 60% of travellers will be Next Gen, Gen Z and Millennials. Often described as younger, greener and less affluent, these generations are digitalised and they shop differently.

“Research agency m1nd-set concludes that 80% of Millennials are loyal to companies that care about their effect on society and more likely to put their principles to work when shopping,” he continued.

“Moreover, 73% believe a greater focus on sustainability increases likelihood of buying.”

As Henningsen points out, all of this translates into digitalised airport, inflight and cruise experiences.

“Social media driven brands will enter the scene to a greater extent,” he said. “Seamless travel will take a whole new meaning the coming years.”

Helping companies accelerate their travel retail business

A one-stop shop for consulting, distribution, advisory board and business angel investments, Blueprint, which was founded in 2016, is achieving its core vision to assist companies with accelerating their travel retail businesses.

“Clients may need go-to-market strategies, commercial sparring, advisory board support and investments whereas others seek insights on how travel retail customers will shop in airports and onboard cruises the coming years,” said Henningsen.

“This broad spectrum of capabilities allow us take on a smaller projects like vetting pricing strategies and product development while also being able to develop and execute travel retail go-to-market strategies.”

Its experienced team has supported a wide range of clients from start-ups to market leaders across all categories, including Wolford, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, MessyWeekend, Summerbird, Rawbite, Simply Chocolate, BitMore, GreyLime, among others.

The company champions embracing best practice from domestic and ecommerce, as Henningsen described: “In many ways these two channels are far more advanced in engaging customers than we are in travel retail.”

As such, it has recently onboarded teammates with strong domestic market experience to generate fresh perspectives on ways to better service customers.

Fostering a mutual trust with clients is a key part of the company’s DNA – something that’s a “hard earned currency” according to Henningsen.

“It is a responsibility we take seriously because the travel retail channel is built on long-term relationships,” he said. “We invite stakeholders to evaluate the team’s performance, we measure the level of trust on an ongoing basis.”

True Gum

More DF&TR partnerships for True Gum are due to be announced shortly.

The proof is in the pudding. Among Blueprint’s success stories are True Gum, which has gone from a ‘kitchen table’ invention to being sold in 20,000 stores in the space of five years, earning it a reputation as ‘one of Europe’s fastest growing plastic-free gum producers’.

The brand is listed with Gebr. Heinemann, Dufry, Aer Rianta International, and Frankfurt Airport VIP Services, with more partnerships to be announced shortly.

Another great example is Joe & The Juice, a partner since 2022, which has 335 stores worldwide – 22 of which are located in airports (spread across 14 hubs in total).

An innovation generating buzz in the industry are the intelligent trolleys for airside airport shopping proudced by Intelligent Track Systems (ITS). The trolleys launched at San Diego International Airport in 2021 followed by Oslo Airport and Nice Airport in 2022.

“In a few months Vienna Airport and Hamburg Airport will introduce trolleys,” revealed Henningsen. “More partnerships will be announced the coming months.”

Blueprint is supporting the TR Consumer Forum as an Exhibition Showcase Partner. Visit to find out more about the event.

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