Personally, I first came across the company quite a few years ago whilst working for Procter & Gamble. So it was no surprise to understand the benefits in engaging with the Advantage Group when Nestor Sanajko (pictured) first approached me as the person leading their presence in the Global Travel Retail (GTR) channel.
At William Grant & Sons (WGS), we managed to turnaround our performance relative to the industry in the channel, actively using the feedback and insights generated by their annual reports. Under my leadership, I was proud to guide the WGS Europe Travel Retail team move to the number 1 position amongst Spirits suppliers, enabling the total WGS business to become number 1 rated for the very first time in 2016 (when I joined in 2012, it was rated at number 4).
Inside the Cask: Hi Nestor. So, where did it all begin? What is your background?
I have to say it all started when I became a brand ambassador while attending University, representing dozens of various brands from different manufacturers. This explains the ease with which I now engage people at networking events as I used to have thousands of interactions a day with a variety of people, ages, and cultures in my home city of Toronto, Canada (one of the most multi-cultural centres in the world). I continued to work with the brand marketing firms in various capacities, fulfilling roles from human resources to sales. Later I experienced the supplier business at Kraft Foods, before and after they brought on Cadbury. Over four years ago, I began working with Advantage (before the Mondelez split). My experience in the consumer packaged goods industry led me to the Advantage Group, and I find the CPG industry fascinating and when an intriguing opportunity came-up, I dove in.
Inside the Cask: What is the latest pieces of insight that you can share with us?
One of the more interesting trends I’ve noted within Travel Retail is the importance retailers have placed on joint business planning in the last year (one of the Practices we measure). Not at all surprising as the industry sees a decline in conversion and sales; the Retailers are putting more emphasis on creating greater synergies together with their Suppliers to improve the situation.
Inside the Cask: Who is the Advantage Group? What is the benefit of participating in the programme for a brand owner and retailer?
Advantage Group International is a market research firm which provides Suppliers a benchmark on B2B Customer Satisfaction. As part of the program, the Retailers also understand their own performance through anonymous feedback from their vendor suppliers. For both sides, they each receive unvarnished truth through the report.
The benefit of Supplier participation is easy, and interestingly enough, our participating suppliers have done the analysis, and shared the reasoning behind this. Quickly, as a Supplier score improves in the Advantage Report, so do their sales, and vice versa; often, the Advantage score tends to be a lead indicator. Further, as the supplier performance improves in the Advantage Report, so does their market share.
Inside the Cask: Tell us more about any other future trends or outputs from the latest research
You’ll like to hear this as it involves Whisky.
This year when we were interviewing Retailer respondents we asked ‘which spirits categories they expect would drive the most value growth for their business in the next three to five years’. Unanimously, and overwhelmingly, around the world, everyone pointed to whisky as the big value driver.
Respondents highlighted single malts with the most frequency, followed by, blended Scotch, Bourbon, and Japanese. I should also highlight that Gin was surprisingly mentioned quite a bit, and in each geographic region too, though not to the extent of Whiskey.
Inside the Cask: What is your favourite part of your job?
I don’t want to sound cliché, however I do enjoy the travel, more specifically, the chance to visit new countries, and experience their food and culture. Now, most of the time you are found in an airplane, a taxi and a hotel room. Once in a while, I do set some time on a weekend, before flying back home, to tour a city. My first year on the job I visited Zurich three times, it was not until the following year that I took a Saturday off to find-out there was a lake in the city and thousands of water fountains!
Inside the Cask: How do you find the interaction with the different stakeholders within GTR – airports, retailers, brand owners?
I enjoy working with everyone in the industry, and I find myself rather lucky to have the opportunity to collaborate and partner with both the brand owners and the Retail Operators.
The most interesting dynamic is that the Advantage scores reflect my own business relationships with the owners and operators; therefore, I view our partners in much the same way the industry perceives them.
On Airports, we actually do not work directly with the authorities, only because our business model does not currently have a place for them. Although, if there was a demand from the retailers, I am sure I could find a solution for them.
Inside the Cask: Finally, tell us something we would not know about you.
I am a board member for a local, not-for-profit organization; vice chairman in fact. The organization is similar to scouts and focused on children’s programs and youth leadership. I used to participate myself when I was younger, then continued as a teenager where I volunteered as a scout leader in high school.
Today, I’m occupied on projects including an annual 1,000 person black tie fundraising gala; you’re invited to attend if you are in Toronto Saturday, January 14, 2017, call me to book tickets or a table!