Gin shines brightly in travel retail

23 February, 2023

Gin may have fallen out of favour in the UK, but its prospects are much brighter in travel retail.

The gin boom of the past decade and a half is slowly de­feating in its major domestic markets, most notably the UK. According to the latest IWSR Drinks Market Analysis forecast, gin sales in the UK will decline at a CAGR of 4% over the next three years. It’s tough for gin distilleries at present – costs are soaring and consumers are either tightening their belts or being tempted by other spirits perceived as trendier, such as tequila and rum.

Travel retail appears to be bucking the trend, however. After years of Covid-19-related misery, the channel is in full-on recovery mode as travellers indulge in some much-anticipated ‘revenge shopping’. In fact, in the spirit’s heartland of Europe, gin is predicted to grow in travel retail at a CAGR of 13% between 2021 and 2026.

Unsurprisingly, gin producers are sitting up and taking notice. For instance, Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail (GTR) has unveiled a new travel retail-exclusive gift bottle and box for its German gin brand Monkey 47. Priced at €43, the pack and bottle feature a design of Monkey 47 luggage stickers, of which there are five sets to collect. The new designs have gone on sale exclusively at Gebr Heinemann’s stores at airports in Europe and Australia.

Meanwhile, travel retail drinks distributor Sipwell Brands has just added Lind & Lime, a new Scottish craft gin named after 18th-century Edinburgh-educated Naval surgeon Dr James Lind, to its portfolio. Lind famously suggested citrus fruits could prevent scurvy among vitamin C-starved sailors. Produced at the Lind & Lime distillery in the Port of Leith, the newly launched brand is aiming to win listings at major hub airports, such as London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol and Singapore Changi.

Over in Ireland, The Shed Distillery’s Gunpowder Irish gin has just renewed its travel retail distribution agreement with distributor Duty Free Global for another six years. Since launching in the channel in 2016, the Irish craft gin has become a top seller at Dublin airport and a big hit with American travellers in particular.

The brand has grown its presence to include listings with DFS Group in the Americas; Dubai Duty Free; Lotte Duty Free in Singapore; Gebr Heinemann; Dufry; Lagardère Travel Retail and Baltic ferry operator Tallink.

Italian-style gins are also packing their bags for foreign climes. Luxury travel retail consultancy 2.0 Partners is now working with Sabatini, a London-produced gin made with Italian botanicals, whose portfolio includes oak-aged and alcohol-free variants. Meanwhile, Italian duty free distributor Food Accademia has just signed Maxi Milian to its books, a new 100% Italian gin boasting eco-packaging and pledging a proportion of its profits to Italian reforestation projects.

Reopening of China

So, gin can look forward to a positive year in travel retail. I’d argue the same goes for wine. The IWSR has predicted that wine sales in travel retail should hit pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year. The reopening of China to the outside world can only speed this trend and wine companies are quickly ramping up their investment in travel retail.

For instance, French wine group Advini has opened a new pop-up boutique at Paris Charles de Gaulle’s recently reopened Terminal 1 in partnership with French retailer Lagardère Travel Retail.

The Once Upon a Wine store is open for six months, offering an interactive and educational experience for travellers. Shoppers can avail themselves of interactive VR headsets to take a virtual tour of the vineyards and estates of popular French winemaking regions such as Chablis, Côte de Beaune, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Saint-Émilion. Customers preferring more traditional service can receive advice from the store’s resident wine expert and taste a selection of wines at a dedicated tasting counter.

In a similar vein, Italy’s Bottega Spa is also upping its game in travel retail this year, opening a new bar in the international departure lounge of Istanbul international airport in January.

The Bottega Prosecco Bar offers a wide range of the Veneto-based company’s sparkling wines as well as a selection of Italian gastronomic specialities. First launched in 2014 onboard Viking Line’s Cinderella ferry, the Bottega Prosecco Bar concept continues to grow worldwide – a total of seven new branches are planned this year. Istanbul airport is described by Bottega as a “nerve centre between Europe and Asia” and there is no escaping the fact the Turkish hub has recovered quickly from the pandemic.

Istanbul was Europe’s busiest airport last year with 64.5 million passengers, more than 75% of them travelling on international flights. Turkish airports saw a massive passenger traffic uplift of over 42% in 2022 and the country should once again strongly perform this year despite last month’s tragic earthquakes, which occurred a long away from its main tourist areas.

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