Interview: Sylvain Combe and Rajiv Bhatia reveal P&B’s travel retail plans

By Andrew Pentol |

Sylvain Combe, CEO, Peuch & Besse (top left) and Rajiv Bhatia, Advisor, Business Development (bottom) spoke recently to TRBusiness Senior Editor Andrew Pentol via the Zoom video conferencing service.

Established in 1904, French family wine merchant Peuch & Besse has focused its business on travel retail and embassies worldwide for over a decade. Boasting an enviable portfolio of red wine, white wine and rose, the company, which will exhibit at the upcoming TRMarketplace digital event is continuously striving to develop its presence in the channel. This is despite the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. TRBusiness speaks to Sylvain Combe, CEO and Rajiv Bhatia, Advisor Business Development.

Can you please offer an insight into your current DF&TR portfolio?

Sylvain Combe: Today, the portfolio reflects our exclusive selection of wines, harvested throughout France for several generations. When I say several generations, I mean we have worked with selected winemakers for 50 years.

This is very important to understand because it is something very special. It’s a story of people. Our portfolio reflects all the French wine territories. It comprises red wine (70%), white wine (20%) and Rose (10%). We have connections and winemakers everywhere in France.

What are your best-selling wines in travel retail and duty free?

Sylvain Combe: The best-sellers in travel retail are red wine, from Bordeaux in particular. Saint Emillion wine is the best-seller worldwide. You can visit all airports globally and it is the same result.

Can you please outline your existing duty free and travel retail presence?

Rajiv Bhatia: We are already in airports, diplomatic and border stores, but cruise lines is another area where there is an opportunity for us. Overall, we are in more than 50 countries, but there are more than 200 countries in the world. There is a very big opportunity from a duty free point of view.

What is your duty free and travel retail strategy post Covid-19?

Rajiv Bhatia: It is about looking at our existing business and the areas we are present. Even in areas where we do have business, like the Middle East, there are new opportunities. We are not in all the airports. It is about using the reference from one airport and expanding into others. This, however, must be done logically and not in a haphazard way so we can manage our growth.

Taking into account the seriousness of the coronavirus situation how do you see the journey ahead for the industry transpiring?

Sylvain Combe: It will obviously be difficult, but also exciting. We are all trying to find solutions. TRMarketplace is part of the solution. Previously, nobody would have imagined an online event like this will take place.

French family wine merchant Peuch & Besse already has strong airport presence globally but is actively seeking new opportunities.

Events like TRMarketplace are an opportunity to meet people differently and find other ways to create links. We need to meet people in person, but this will not happen yet as there are few people travelling. We must adapt, stick together and find solutions. It’s exciting to hold these types of discussions as everyone is more open than before.

For me, TRMarketplace is an opportunity to be closer to our existing customers and to create new ones.

How will you look to maximise the potential of the wine segment in DF&TR — What opportunities does wine present for retailers?

Sylvain Combe: Sales are being made more and more through digital. Customers can access videos and understand products better. This is why we capture stories of our winemakers.

We have created about 50 videos in nine years (click the above video) which anyone anywhere can watch when buying a bottle or enjoying a glass of wine. We have the material and are ready to communicate differing things. This is a great opportunity to give information.

Rajiv Bhatia: They always say a picture is great, but if you can have something that tells a story, it is so much easier for a consumer to watch that, see how the wine is made, see its characteristics and most importantly see the winemaker behind the wine as well.

From that point of view, there are considerable opportunities when you consider the potential of the DF&TR wine segment. There has been a lot of focus on spirits and if you look at some of the wine ranges, they look fairly standard when travelling.

It’s about adding excitement and offering value and quality. The retailers we are already working know we have added value to the category. The aim is to maximise the opportunity to bring people into the store and then maximise the buying opportunity. People can buy wine as well as spirits.

What are the main trends in the wine segment and how is Peuch & Besse looking to capitalise?

Sylvain Combe: Wine is one of the rare categories which allows the customer to retain their loyalty, providing they are made aware of the quality and royalty of the wine they buy. Our consistency in carrying the same message for decades makes us very optimistic for the future. We are sure we will have many opportunities.

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