on 03 Sep 2019 4:47 PM
  • #marketing
  • #shopper
  • #strategy
  • #travelretail

As a regular traveler and alcohol beverages professional, I should be a good spirits client in Airports, let alone for curiosity and, of course, indulgence. However, I caught myself several times refraining from buying. The reason? The ugly and unpractical 1 liter size. Read here why we think the 1 liter size in spirits misses opportunities in Travel Retail.

In the past years, Travel Retail shops in airports have become key for spirits brands. Apart from the usual “good deal”, this channel has become a prime destination for the introduction and test of innovations and a showcase for Premium and Super Premium brands. A quick look at the offering shows that the vast majority of spirits proposed in European Travel retail shops are of 1 liter size, irrespective of the price segment.

When bigger matters…Those familiar with the ways of Travel Retail know that buyers request 1 liter bottles vs. 70 cl. - the size of domestic markets. The reason, from a buyer’s point of view, is to make like-for-like comparisons with domestic prices harder. Add a bit of promo and there’s an offer one can refuse.

From a shopper perspective, this approach will attract the Bargain Hunters who are looking to restock their home with volume and at good deal. Value and Standard Price brands are well suited for these offers as the large quantities fits volumes required for mixed drinks and a large unit volume implies a bargain.

However some Travel Retail customers are Gift Shoppers. In this case, bottle size triggers different perceptions by genders: when a shopper and a recipient are men, a big & tall bottle size flags masculinity and assurance. Freud can explain that.

When smaller is better… If a woman buys a spirit for a gift, a big bottle can imply that her partner is a big drinker… Smaller bottle sizes such as 20 cl or 50 cl can attract female spirits shoppers as smaller sizes imply rarity and care in a relation, which are valuable gift messages. This approach also helps lower the facial price of Premium and Super Premium brands, which is not a negligible driver.

Another shopper segment includes Quality Explorers. These shoppers look for Spirits in the higher end of retail prices to explore brands and enrich their collection. Here, shoppers will not be too sensitive to pricing, especially if coming back from a hardworking trip and looking for self-reward (while waiting to board). Smaller sizes such as the domestic 70 cl or even 50 cl (if we want to make a new mold) can be of appeal for the following reasons :

  • Smaller sizes free from having the impression commit to a quantity. In this case the insight “I’d rather drink less, but good quality” applies, especially in those times of health concerns.
  • Smaller sizes are easier … to carry! I don’t know about you, but after a long trip, the last thing I want is to load myself even more.
  • Smaller sizes look great : call us design buffs, but we believe that products must taste AND look good, especially when displayed at home. When designing a bottle, all designers start with the 70 cl bottle, which is supposed to look at its best, and bigger sizes usually receive little attention.
  • As a result, 1 liter spirits bottles seldom looks good : indeed, since the liquid fillers diameter are often the same for 50, 70, 100 or 150 cl bottles, the neck width of a bottle can look too small vs. the width of the bottle in a big size unit. Conversely, 50 cl. bottles can look surprisingly good as their neck will look larger in proportion to the body width.

About volume allowances... Travel Retail experts will point that a 1 liter size is a perfect multiple for spirits volume allowances. Within the EU, the maximum amount of spirits that can be brought is 10 liters. But the amount of shoppers who max out to this volume must be minute. So 70 cl unite size can also work very well for the vast majority who is concerned by maximum volumes.

When flying in the EU, travelers can bring a total of 1 liter of spirits over 22% ABV. In this case, the 1 liter multiple can make sense. Or 2 bottles of 50 cl. for, e.g. 2 brands. Again, the argument for smaller sizes applies. 

At this point, the case for smaller bottle sizes than 1 liter in Travel Retail is clear from a shopper benefit standpoint: 70 and 50 cl units allow to attract other shopper segments, namely those interested in Premium and Super Premium spirits, which by themselves carry more margin for the Brand AND the Travel Retail operator. For these reasons, the good old argument of the 1 liter size to drive bargains and reduce direct comparisons with domestic offerings, limits opportunities and deserves to be challenged.

Brand Reveal is a network of Senior Marketing Experts, each with more than 25 years experience in the drinks industry. We travel a lot and forgot to keep our tongues in our pockets. For out-of-the-box strategies that are ingrained in consumer insights, do give a shout. [email protected]