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Confectionery: the new sweet spot in Travel Retail

Confectionery has become a sweet spot for the Travel Retail industry, with growth driven by new product development, premiumisation and Duty Free exclusive ranges.

Granted, the giants of the Travel Retail sector – alcohol, perfume and tobacco – still take the lion’s share, due to their much higher average ticket prices. However, confectionery can offer a huge range of price points, from quite literally pocket money packs up to super-premium gifting products. As a result, it enjoys a much wider consumer audience.

So for Travel Retail operators, it can be a way to entice people into the Duty Free shops in airports. Someone who stops by to pick up a treat to help them last out until their flight leaves might also end up browsing the more expensive shelves.

Furthermore, even with the gifting market (a massive element in Travel Retail), there will always be people who won’t buy alcohol, perfumes or tobacco. Chocolate and sweet confectionery, on the other hand, has mass market appeal.

Confectionery manufacturers also get to try out new variants and even complete brands in a controlled environment with an audience which has money to spend, time to kill, is in the mood for new experiences – and is eager to share what they find on social media.

The travelling consumer can easily become ambassadors for brands, or new flavour variants, they have learned to love by trying them in airports.

M&M’s, for example, launched its Crunchy Caramel variety in Travel Retail at the same time as it rolled it out in general retail. Nestlé has taken it one step further, with its Nestlé Swiss range only available in Travel Retail – you can’t buy it elsewhere.

Confectionery brands also offer the opportunity for ‘destination targeting.’ Traditional sweets from the country an airport is located in, packaged to reflect national icons (like chocolate boxes with the Tower of London, for example) make great gifts for air travellers to buy for friends, family, colleagues and contacts.

Local brands can capitalise on this – in the UK, that would be famous names like Fortnum & Masons, Thorntons and Churchills. But even brands made elsewhere will literally wrap themselves in some ‘local flavour’ – so Toblerone sells gift packs in London airports with London-themed sleeves.

However, engaging the travelling audience in airports is a challenge. But brand activation and experiential marketing campaigns can drive sales and are being increasingly used.

Experiential marketing allows manufacturers to tell the story behind their famous names in a way that immerses the audience in its history. Much of the effort in marketing confectionery in Travel Retail goes on educating consumers about the taste and texture of a product and its back-story. Sound, smell and sight are also major factors which experiential marketing can leverage.

If you want people to buy a new range of chocolates, then you need to get them to try it. The best way to deliver that is through face-to-face marketing, with trained Brand Ambassadors, who can explain what is in the product, how it is made and what sets it apart from rival offerings.

A version of this article appeared in Confectionery Production