I have contributed to the December 2017 issue of Duty Free News International (DFNI) magazine on the topic of craft spirits. The full version is available here on this blog.

In the world of today, of fake news, instant gratification and mass produced commodities, there is a desire for authentic quality, for products with real provenance.

This is reflected in the growing trend for craft spirits, driving a shift in consumer preferences across bars and shops globally, partially following on the success of craft beer over the past few decades.

In my personal opinion, craft spirits are all about innovation, about artisanship and the passion behind the products, about heritage and transparency, about integrity and not necessarily about size. Just as not all small distilleries are craft, equally not all craft distilleries are small.

In reality, the consumer understanding and perception of the term craft continues to evolve, and it is ultimately them that will decide on what they believe it to represent.

Premiumisation is what created the opportunity for the craft spirits segment to develop. Available research suggests also that spirit drinkers would be encouraged to pay more when this craft element is conveyed and combined with other factors such as differentiation against the category and/or unique taste offering for example. Authentic experiences can enhance this offering further and create engagement.

However, despite all the excitement generated towards craft spirits, this is only but a drop in the large ocean of big international brands, no more so than in the spirits industry. There is no better example of this than in our own travel retail sector.

The lack of diversity in product offered and the risk of the ‘shopping mall syndrome’ – as illustrated in the recent Trunblocked blog article (Peter Marshall) – limits the choice on offer to travellers worldwide.

This in turn acts as a de facto barrier of entry to innovation by limiting the opportunity to increase engagement and possibly penetration in stores. Craft spirits could help in creating excitement and bring back to stores potential shoppers such as frequent business travellers and younger passengers (of legal drinking age of course!).

Travel retailers should capitalise on this craving for authenticity by increasing the diversity of their offer, by actively promoting the craft spirit segment through activations, and by telling their story both instore and via digital means.


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