Consumer appetite for a broader food range in travel retail is clear, says NITR

By Faye Bartle |

Nestlé International Travel Retail

NITR’s General Manager Stewart Dryburgh.

Nestlé International Travel Retail (NITR) is on a mission to build food into the number one most purchased category in travel retail, and m1nd-set consumer research is helping to inform and validate the vision.

The NITR commissioned research, which was revealed in September, uncovered some eye-opening statistics that is helping the company to take an even more targeted approach to reaching its goal.

“If you never ask the question, no one has the chance to tell you,” said NITR’s General Manager Stewart Dryburgh of the research, when TRBusiness interviewed him during the TFWA World Exhibition and Conference in Cannes.

“The [Covid] crisis gave us the chance to stop and take a step back.

“That’s how we got to the statistic that confectionery, as a percentage of packaged food, comprises a 7% share of the offer on the domestic markets compared to 77% in travel retail.

“Yes, it’s gift worthy, but have we actually paid attention to the other bit? And it’s not that we want to sell one less KitKat or packet of Smarties, and I don’t want Toblerone or Lindt or Mars to lose any sales. But what I do want is for the industry to exploit what is clearly a decent consumer appetite for the broader range.”

Nestlé International Travel Retail

The NITR commissioned m1nd-set research shows that 69% of respondents ranked food and confectionery grouped together as the most appealing category to shop in travel retail.

The vision could be a driver for introducing more local flavours into mix at airports, as Dryburgh points out: “What better than food to give you a sense of place?”

Further to this, we could see coffee weave its way into more of NITR’s points of sale soon.

The m1nd-set research highlighted that 84% of global shoppers were likely to buy coffee in travel retail – that’s 1.5 times higher than the number who said they were likely to buy confectionery.

“What extremely pleasantly surprised us was the scale of interest for coffee – and you can take that as a proxy for hot drinks,” said Dryburgh.

“We now have coffee in situ in a number of airports in Europe and the Middle East, and we have one of the major airports coming on-stream in Asia.”

Nestlé International Travel Retail

The m1nd-set research highlights the key growth opportunities around coffee and wellbeing (vitamins, minerals, herbals and supplements) in travel retail.

Another key statistic in the research is that 41% of people are likely to purchase VMHS (vitamins, minerals, herbals and supplements).

“When it comes to the wellbeing space, people in the trade were already talking to us about it,” says Dryburgh. “This was just when we were doing the research, so the timing was very serendipitous.

“Scaling up the idea requires a change of mindset.”

A new way of thinking

NITR launched its vision to build food into the number one most purchased category in travel retail in October 2021, exploring whether grouping confectionery, global food brands and local food together as one ‘super’ food category could increase basket size through a ‘stronger together’ approach.

Nescafé Gold.

84% of global shoppers were likely to buy coffee in travel retail, according to the NITR/m1nd-set research.

Dryburgh clearly champions the benefits but is quick to point out that confectionery will remain at the beating heart of the company’s offer – and that there is a slice of the pie available to all those invested.

“Retailers have been very open to it and a couple have been quick out of the starting blocks,” he said.

Those early adopters, he added, will become “the lighthouses for the rest of the industry”.

“If you go onto Dufry’s website or the Dubai [Duty Free] website they are already talking about food in the broader sense.

“What we’ve been doing is merchandising confectionery as the lead hero segment within food but really there’s an awful lot more to be doing.

“With extending out the product space, confectionery bleeds into biscuits and tea and coffee goes alongside – you introduce all of this.”

The next step? “Make it big. Simple as that,” he suggested.

“Step by step, we will develop it with retail partners, and we will learn as we go.

“Some things we will get right, and we’ll probably make some mistakes along the journey, but that’s ok, as if you don’t make mistakes you’re not learning.

“What’s super exciting about it is the scale of potential when you see the interest in consumers and you realise that we have all been tightly focused on doing confectionery really well – and that there is a far broader canvas to play on.

“If we do it right, there are only upsides. If we get it right, it means incremental sales.”

NITR is in ‘active discussions’ with its industry customers about this, with further developments expected in the coming year.

“We’re getting the boat in the water, and we are going to test what is the right way to do it and how to bring it to life,” summarised Dryburgh.

“Is there more to come? Absolutely. And the key thrust for us right now is making this happen.”

To ensure you receive the dedicated, monthly Food for Thought newsletter brought to you in partnership with Nestlé International Travel Retail, please email [email protected]

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