Nestlé ITR details strategy to ‘unlock the potential of food’ in travel retail

By Faye Bartle |


83% of the consumers surveyed said finding coffee in the airport shopping environment would be ‘quite or very, useful’.

Nestlé International Travel Retail (NITR) shared a deep dive into its ambition to build food into the number one most purchased category in travel retail at a press event that took place during the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference in Cannes last week.

General Manger Stewart Dryburgh made an introduction, sharing how taking time to step back and consider the business during the pandemic led to the company identifying a “super opportunity to take the world of food beyond confectionery”.

At the same time, he underlined how “confectionery was, is, and will continue to be the beating heart of what we do in the category”.

The session was presented by NITR Marketing Manager Tamara Spada, who discussed the vision for a ‘super food category’ incorporating confectionery, global food brands and local food and how it could be a win win for consumers, brands and retailers in the channel.

‘It’s not just a Nestlé thing – it’s an entire category thing,” she said.

Putting research front and centre, Spada demonstrated that food is a key category – a m1nd-set study commissioned by NITR has shown it is the second most purchased category in travel retail (with 30% of consumers rating it as appealing) after perfumes and cosmetics (48%) – and there is significant room for growth.

NITR’s strategy to establish and champion a broader food category in a ‘stronger together’ approach was backed by the research, which also found that 69% of consumers ranked food, chocolate and confectionery grouped together as the most appealing category to shop in global travel retail (GTR).

Furthermore, 75% of those who voted for this were millennials.

This compares to beauty being highlighted as the second most appealing category to purchase in GTR, achieving 58% of the vote – 70% of which were female, according to the research.

NITR press conference in Cannes

Members of the press at the NITR press conference in Cannes, including NITR Marketing Manager Tamara Spada (fourth from left), next to GM Stewart Dryburgh and TRBusiness’ Faye Bartle.

One of the most eye-opening statistics to come from the study was that confectionery, as a percentage of packaged food, comprises a 7% share of the offer on the domestic market compared to a whopping 77% in GTR.

In turn, this points to non-confectionery foods potentially being underexploited in the channel.

With this in mind, Spada discussed four key ways to bring the strategy to life and “unlock the potential of food in GTR”.

This covers communicating the extra value of the products to consumers (over and above the price), driving engagement, championing regeneration (environmentally friendly credentials that stretch beyond sustainability) and delivering a sense of place – all expertly executed.

Anatomy of a super food category in travel retail

Creating the super food category NITR is envisioning, involves building the core range of confectionery, strategically adding global food brands and leveraging the popularity of local food.

While, as Dryburgh pointed out, confectionery remains at the heart due to its enduring resilience, coffee and wellbeing were highlighted as sub-categories that present key growth opportunities.

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.

Furthermore, 83% of the consumers surveyed said finding coffee in the airport shopping environment would be ‘quite or very, useful’.

As such, NITR is investing in reaching and engaging with consumers across the travel journey through having a presence in-store, as well as via offline and online media.

The Nescafé portfolio includes the Nescafé Azera Americano range – a blend of instant and finely roasted coffee beans that’s designed to appeal to the ‘barista-style demands of younger consumers’.

Nescafé Gold Roastery.

Nescafé Gold Roastery Collection.

There’s also the Nescafé Gold Roastery Collection, available in a light and dark roast, as well as the classic Nescafé Gold and Nescafé instant coffee.

“We’ve started with coffee in travel retail and we’ve seen quite fast inroads,” said Spada.

“A key retailer has started doing a test and at this location it’s already within the top 10 products sold for Nestlé so that was a validating point.

“We need to get it out there more and we need to be able to delight those consumers more as they travel along their journeys.

“We currently have a few locations for coffee in the channel, but it’s a roll out like everything else so when we have the interest, we introduce it. We are very optimistic about where it’s going to be.”

Another key statistic highlighted was that 41% of people were likely to purchase VMHS (vitamins, minerals, herbals and supplements) against a backdrop of wellbeing being a high priority for people post-covid and the global wellness market being valued at US$1.5 trillion, according to McKinsey.

 NITR's VMHS portfolio.

A snapshot of NITR’s VMHS (vitamins, minerals, herbals and supplements) portfolio.

Nestlé Health Science’s portfolio feeds into this, with its range of VMHS including Solgar, Nature’s Bounty and Garden of Life, among others.

“We see the wellbeing trend is rising rapidly,” said Spada. “We see global and regional opportunities – for example, milk powder in the Middle East is important and will continue to be important. We need to make sure that we tailor what we are bringing to the travellers.

“There are a number of different brands and products [in the portfolio] and we need to make sure that we do it the right way and methodically. When we unlock this opportunity, it’s going to be in a sustainable way.”

Confectionery as the ‘beating heart’ of the food category

During the session, the resilience of chocolate confectionery was highlighted, with its year-on-year growth evolution tracked from 2009 to today, showing a sharp rebound post covid.

Spada went on to discuss the ways in which NITR brands are positioned and marketed to reach consumers across the full travel journey.

Tools include creating intrigue and capitalising on curiosity pre-trip with digital assets to enticing shoppers with exclusive products and activations at the airport and keeping the conversation going via social media during the trip to encourage purchasing on the return.

The NITR range has been refreshed, with new flavours and updated packaging characterising the new wave of introductions.


New KitKat products on the radar include the KitKat Mini Moments and Mini Dessert in new flavours (Pistachio and Lotus Biscuit), available May/June 2023; KitKat Two Finger Mix Sharing Bag, now with the white chocolate variety, available March 2023; KitKat Chunky Peanut Butter Gift Pack available January 2023; and the KitKat Chunky Mix Gift Pack, now with updated flavours of Peanut Butter, Milk and Caramel available March 2023.

“We are linking the brand better to travel retail in terms of packaging and delighting the consumer with a world of flavour,” said Spada.

There’s also the new KitKat Vegan Travellers’ Edition, which launched this month (October 2022) in a travel retail exclusive box of three.

This holds a particular appeal to eco-conscious shoppers with the bar, in its full lifecycle, having a carbon footprint that’s 18% lower than the standard KitKat milk chocolate bar.

It marks an important step in the KitKat brand journey to become carbon neutral by 2025.

Smarties was the first global confectionery brand to move entirely to recyclable paper packing in 2020.

The brand was subsequently awarded a TR Sustainability Hero accolade in 2021.

A new innovation in the range is the Smarties Cool Creatures pack that contains three digital activities accessible through a QR code, a playmat with scenery and fun facts about sea creatures, two pages of stickers, eight colouring pencils, and four tubes of Smarties in the hexatub format. This will be available from March 2023.

Add to this that Quality Street is shifting to paper wrappers, with a target date of March 2023 for its completion as previously reported.

For After Eight, consumers can look forward to a new duty free limited edition Gin Tonic & Mint flavour from May 2023.

There’s also a Nestlé Swiss milk chocolate bar with hazelnuts (visible as large chunks in the chocolate) in the pipeline for March 2023.

TRBusiness has teamed up with Nestlé International Travel Retail on an annual partnership to launch a dedicated, regular platform in our magazine titled Food For Thought, which will be shining a light on how suppliers, retailers and operators from around the world are working to build the food category in travel retail. The first instalment of this, featuring our interview with NITR General Manager Stewart Dryburgh, will appear in our November/December issue (available in e-zine format and in print at the MEADFA Conference in Bahrain) from 27 November 2022. To ensure you receive the associated monthly newsletter, please email [email protected].

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