TFWA W&S webinar: Differentiation, premiumisation & sustainability in view

By Luke Barras-hill |

Communicating the power of exclusive products in DF&TR remains a key driver to influencing decision making and driving conversion in the alcohol segment, according to research from Pi Insight.

During the first in a two-part ‘Wines & Spirits in Travel Retail’ webinar hosted on the TFWA 365 virtual platform today (25 October), Stephen Hillam, Managing Director at Pi Insight, shared data* from the company’s ‘Recovery Series’ of reports on the purchasing dynamics and behaviours of European wine & spirits shoppers.

When it comes duty free exclusives, 81% of shoppers consider these to be an important element of their shopping experience (whisky: 85%; vodka: 84%; Cognac: 84%).

“This trend towards the importance of duty free exclusives is nothing new and has been an expectation for some time,” said Hillam. “However, what is interesting to see is this interest in duty free exclusives has increased fairly significantly over the past two years, or since 2019, where we’ve seen 10% more shoppers interested in or considering the availability of duty free exclusives to be an important part of the duty free shopping experience.

“This level of interest and expectation for duty free exclusives has also led to the potential for duty free exclusives to have a fairly significant impact on that decision- making process, with 63% of shoppers stating they would be more likely to buy a particular item if it was indeed exclusive to the travel retail channel. With this again increasing in prominence in certain categories such as whisky (71%), vodka (66%) and Cognac (66%).

Purpose and profile

“What we need to do is ensure these are being communicated, shoppers are aware of their availability to meet those expectations but also to influence decision making and drive conversion.”


Outside of Europe, and based on preliminary findings from Pi Insight’s next major syndicated study within it ‘Global Shopper Series’ of reports, TREX products are considered hugely valuable to those from the US (94%), United Arab Emirates (98%) and South Korea (87%).

During the session, Hillam spoke about an alcohol shopper that possesses a purposeful and mission-led mindset.

At a glance, a ‘fairly distinct profile’ has emerged of a shopper that is most likely to be male, with a relatively even-age split, and more likely to be travelling for leisure.

They are most interested in, or likely to be purchasing, whisk(e)y but also vodka, wine, champagne, followed by Cognac, gin, rum and liqueurs.

Average spend is around $85, but the shopper is also seeking items across other categories to drive average basket spending to $169.

Treating oneself (47%), taking advantage of airport prices (44%) and looking for promotions (34%) are among the main purchase drivers.

Hillam said: “Re-emerging [to travel] is one of the top three reasons to visit the category, however, while this is the case we are seeing these very popular factors remaining in post-Pandemic times.

“We also have a shopper entering the category to suit different occasions, with 42% purchasing for themselves, 38% purchasing to share and 30% purchasing for a gift – increasing for wine & Champagne.

“We also have a shopper that is very heavily opened to be influenced instore,” continued Hillam, highlighting that 42% plan their purchase (liqueurs: 53; Cognac: 50%; rum: 47%), but only 19% planned to an exact item and 28% know the brand they intend to buy.

The Pi Insight MD went on to split out a number of areas of importance, including product, value and service, within which he described the allure of premiumisation and sustainability.


In the case of the former, according to Pi Insight’s data, 30% of alcohol shoppers trade up to more expensive variants than they would usually buy at home (Cognac: 36%; whisky: 35%; and wine & Champagne: 32%).

“Therefore, in the European market we have this demand for premiumisation, the ability to trade up to more expensive variants, but this is an opportunity and expectation which increases further still, the further afield we go,” he explained.

Moreover, sustainability and social responsibility remain a pull for alcohol buyers.

Eighty-five percent consider sustainability to be important when shopping in duty free, with 45% considering sustainability to be very important and 41% deeming sustainability to be quite important.

Describing sustainability as an expectation – and similar to differentiation or premiumisation – it can influence decision making, described Hillam.

TFWA Managing Director John Rimmer (left) and Pi Insight Managing Director Stephen Hillam.

Putting things into context, he made clear that alcohol shoppers aren’t visiting stores to buy sustainable products alone, but factors such as product quality, new items and differentiation all play a role.

“However, when some of these initial needs are met and a shopper is deciding between product ‘A’ and product ‘B’, at this point sustainability can have a significant role in which of those items the shopper chooses,” he pointed out.

Addressing the value proposition, Hillam said that alcohol shoppers are seeking good quality products (37%), followed by cheaper prices (24%) and attractive promotions (24%).

“We have a situation where prices or value proposition has a significant role to play within that purchase conversion,” he said.

Where the value proposition expectation is not met, it can have a negative impact, continued Hillam.

Expensive prices (28%) is the number one barrier to purchase, followed by a lack of promotions (25%) and nothing of interest (24%).

“It’s key we are pointing out the potential for the pricing benefit of shopping in travel retail versus other channels and highlighting clearly the promotional discounts and promotional activity.”

He said price-based mechanics such as added-value promotions drive interest, with price discounting (51%) and multi-buy offers (24%) rated highly by alcohol shoppers.

When it comes to staff interaction, one in four alcohol shoppers interact with staff while making their decision.

Seeking specific item advice (27%), new item advice (18%) and sampling products (17%) underpins the interaction, according to Hillam.

Sixty-four percent of those interacting with staff are positively influenced; forty-four are choosing between items and staff assisted; and 20% would not have purchased without staff input.

The webinar, which put the microscope on the current state of the wines & spirits market in DF&TR, also featured contributions from Lars Ziehn, Head of Category Management Liquor, Tobacco, Confectionery at Gebr. Heinemann; Matthew Hodges, Chief Commercial Officer, Harding; and Pier Giuseppe Torresani, Export & Travel Retail Sales Director, Masi Agricola.

The Wines & Spirits in Travel Retail webinars are being moderated by TFWA Managing Director John Rimmer and drinks writer and editor Olly Wehring.

On Wednesday October 26, TFWA 365 will host the second webinar (10:30am – 12:00pm CET).

This will take a look at the changes shaping the future of wines & spirits in DF&TR; how brands are factoring environmental concerns into product development; and the role of digitalisation, among other themes.

Attendees will hear from Dafydd Pugh Williams, Marketing & Innovation Director, Diageo Global Travel; Stéphane Morizet, Marketing Director Global Travel Retail, Brown-Forman; and Barry Geoghegan, Owner and Commercial Director, Duty Free Global.

*Insights drawn from interviews with 2,373 alcohol buyers among key European nationalities across a spread of categories – from whisky, vodka, Cognac and rum, to gin, wine & champagne and liqueurs.

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