[UPDATED WITH VIDEO CONTENT] Quintessential Brands Group is building its travel retail presence with engaging activations, green innovations and expanding into new regions.
“Post covid, we are seeing more dwell time in the store and basket spend has increased significantly,” said Oliver Storrie, Commercial Director – Global Travel Retail, Quintessential Brands Group (QBG), when TRBusiness met with him during the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference in Cannes.
“Purchase habits are back to 2019 levels.”
The uptick can largely be attributed to the pent-up appetite for travel and the trend for ‘revenge spending’, he says.
“Normally I have a rule of thumb that one in 10 travellers will go into a duty free store and, generally, one out of 10 of those people will make a purchase. Today, we are seeing it’s more like three in 10 in both instances.”
With a similar sentiment being relayed to the brand by a number of retailers, QBG is now looking to elevate its presence and add new doors in the channel in destinations where its brands have a strong presence on the domestic market.
The plan is to deploy consistent campaigns, promotions and global brand messages so the strategy, from a group level, is completely aligned.
“We’ve recently carried out our first activation with Bloom [a super premium gin] since covid. This was with Dufry in Glasgow,” said Storrie.
“We also introduced our three expressions of Greenall’s with Lagardère in the UK, and we have just launched Dubliner Irish Whiskey with Dufry, which will be going on promotion at Gatwick South from November.”
Looking at the gin space in particular, Storrie says there is ample scope to drive engagement – especially so in an airport environment.
“When it comes to a premium product, it’s more about the brand equity as a shop window for us, so we are aiming to communicate the core brand values to consumers within a fun space,” he said.
“We have developed tasting wheels and sensory experiences, such as the Opihr botanical showcase that we delivered with Heinemann.”
Expanding into North America
In terms of new markets, the company has just launched in North America with its new business partner Alexander James & Co.
“The cruise market is coming back strongly in this region,” says Storrie.
A primary focus is the premiumisation of the gin offer.
“In North America, we want to seed in our premium gin and capitalise on that growth we are seeing in the category,” he says.
On top of Greenall’s London Dry Gin, premium gins in the group include Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin and Berkeley Square London Dry Gin. There’s also the super premium Bloom Gin and Thomas Dakin, the small batch gin with a rich heritage.
“It’s very much a brown spirits market too,” adds Storrie. “So Dubliner would be ideal to move into that market.
“For Asia it’s very similar. Opihr naturally lends itself to that region, as do our aged malts in The Dublin Liberties Irish whiskey range.”
How expressions are driving shelf appeal
Opihr, which takes inspiration from the ancient spice root (featuring ingredients such as spicy cubeb berries from Indonesia, black pepper from India and coriander from Morocco), has roughly the largest travel retail footprint out of all the brands in the group, says Storrie.
“It’s doing really well for us as it’s very different,” he says.
Having different expressions in the range, such as the Black Lemon and Szechuan Pepper varieties, is helping the brand to stand out on the shelf.
“If you are a single SKU brand, you can get lost on the shelf – especially if you’re a gin,” says Storrie.
“The consumers are knowledgeable and they’ve tasted a lot of the core range yet are loyal to the brand so they want to discover other expressions.”
In travel retail, QBG brands tend to lead with the core range, with around 20% of the selection focused on those expressions that are particularly suited to the region.
Launching the Greenall’s paper bottle
Greenall’s, another travel retail star, recently launched a 70cl paper bottle format, which is available for UK customers across all channels.
It debuted in Sainsbury’s supermarket in October and is launching in EMEA later this year.
Made from 94% recycled paperboard with a food grade pouch to contain the gin, the paper bottle is five times lighter than a normal glass bottle, with a reduced carbon and water footprint.
It marks an important step in the brand’s wider journey to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero. You can read more about it in our previous report.
“Due to being much lighter than a glass bottle, it’s perfect for travel and great for airlines,” said Storrie.
“It’s early days but the feedback so far has been excellent, especially from cruise lines.”
With regards to bringing more sustainable products into the channel, Storrie says conversations about the best placement are ongoing.
“There is a big emphasis on sustainability in the media but how that translates to the shelf is still to come and I don’t think anyone has mastered that,” he says.
“My hunch is they should focus on category specific sustainable areas, otherwise it may be confusing for the consumer and we may miss opportunities for sales as they would need to make the effort to go to a dedicated sustainable site in the store.”
QBG’s award-winning portfolio spans gin, Irish whiskey, Irish cream and speciality brands (such as Alizé, the French vodka cognac liqueur).
The company also has a whiskey distillery in Dublin and carries out high volume of third party bottling.
As previously reported, QBG received two Highly Recommended accolades in the 2022 Global Travel Retail Awards as follows: G & J Distillers (Part of Quintessential Brands Group) – Greenall’s Original Paper Bottle (Greener with Greenall’s) and G & J Distillers (Part of Quintessential Brands Group) – Opihr Aromatic Bitter European Edition.