Beam Suntory sets lofty goal to be spirits partner of choice in GTR

Beam Suntory Travel Retail has a clear vision for its business strategy: the company wants to be the preeminent spirits supplier in global travel retail, John Rosair, Beam Suntory Managing Director – APAC & GTR tells TMI.

Rosair and Ed Stening, Global Marketing Director – Travel Retail, Beam Suntory, sat down with TMI at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes to pinpoint how the global spirits power is evolving to achieve its goals.

“We are really excited about the journey we are going to take. We are in phase three of a journey we started six years ago; then it was about making sure that we were on-shelf, in-store. That was our GTR strategy. In the last couple of years we’ve moved to much more customer engagement. And that’s allowed us to set ourselves up to take on what we think is the most exciting phase for GTR,” says Rosair.

“Our vision for this business is to be the shop window of the Beam Suntory portfolio for the world. We know that GTR is one of the most effective touch-points for building a brand. We are going to move from just having a presence to focusing on our brands. That’s changed our marketing capability significantly. We also believe that we can be the go-to in the travel retail industry on how to drive foot traffic into stores, convert shoppers into buyers, and help increase basket size. If you go to a duty free store in an airport today you see us very differently than we looked before. Now we have beautiful activations built on insights; instead of a ‘we had some space so let’s fill it’ philosophy.”

Rosair says category management and research-driven shopper insights are key to the company’s success in the category.

“We are moving the commercial conversation away from asking retailers to sell our brands to offering them solutions to grow their businesses. It is a completely different mindset.

“We’ve identified the demand spaces that will drive both the consumer and the shopper purchases. For us, it is driving the bourbon category rather than selling only Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark. We are telling the retailers that we believe bourbon can be the whiskey of the world. How do we help you grow bourbon?

“Our goal in GTR is to focus on the mutual growth of categories using a much more disciplined approach based on category insights. We are also creating an IT infrastructure that allows our teams to have information in real time and provide that information to our customers.”

Beam Suntory’s marketing is much more focused now under Ed Stening’s leadership, he says.

“We’ve moved to an agile model, which allows us to work across the world more quickly and is a better use of our capacity. We don’t try to sell all of the volume of all our brands, but focus on five global brands in global travel retail along with some ‘local heroes’ we invest behind where it is appropriate,” says Stening.

“The first global brand, obviously, is Jim Beam. It is our focus brand, our number one. It’s the name on the door.”

Maker’s Mark bourbon, Bowmore single malt scotch, Courvoisier cognac, and Sipsmith Gin are the other four global brands, he says.

“For local heroes, in Latin America and the U.S., tequila is still a part of our game. And we make amazing tequila.”

Beam Suntory is using more activations to bring excitement and experiences into travel retail stores.
“The centralization marketing model provides more energy and by understanding those demand spaces we can create activations. GTR is not just about creating a new liquid it is also about how you bring that to life, especially for the top retailers, and we are really starting to focus on this,” says Stening.

Rosair wants duty free operators to consider Beam Suntory as their partner of choice.

“We want a consistent presence for our brands and the way they shop across the world. That’s a huge drive for us. We’re successfully growing our five focus brands across the globe, and they are starting to resonate with consumers across the world.

“We want retailers to say ‘Beam Suntory is so innovative. They are helping us grow our businesses, they understand us more than anyone else, and they bring solutions to the table.’”

Beam Suntory is currently the fifth largest spirits supplier, but the company has aspirations to climb up the ranking.

“We definitely would like to be higher. And I think that is going to come from being the company that retailers call. We might not be the big fish like Diageo, but we are committed to achieving their objectives, whether that’s increasing basket size or footfall, and this will be through super compelling activations,” says Stening.

“Hopefully over the next couple of years Beam Suntory will be punching well above our weight with the customers,” says Rosair. “We want the customers looking at us for solutions because they know that Beam Suntory knows the category and how to drive shopper behavior, and are disciplined in their brands. The brands they bring to life they bring to life like nobody in the industry.”