Johnnie Walker Blue Label Casks Edition – Middle East Limited Edition. The bottle features a design by renowned artist Rana Zaher, which depicts the journey of the Johnnie Walker brand from Scotland to the Arabian Gulf in the Middle East
MacDonald describes the region’s passenger mix as interesting, and in terms of marketing, Diageo puts the traveler firmly at the heart of everything. “It’s so important, because the passenger mix is ultimately a huge driver of sales. For example, in the Middle East there are a lot of local passengers and a huge number of passengers from the Indian subcontinent. Brands like Vat 69 and Black & White whisky are disproportionately important in India. You tend to see those brands sell really well in the Middle East.”
Focus on malt whiskies
The company is also seeing a lot of interest in single malts. “The whisky business is always in good health and blended Scotch continues to be the number one sector. Within Scotch, malts are growing faster than blends, so that’s an area that definitely in the Middle East we want to focus on. We’ve got four strategic brands that we focus on globally, but I would say that that the two for the Middle East would be The Singleton and Talisker.”
MacDonald has observed a trend for stock-up purchases in some airports in the Middle East, particularly among passengers from the Indian subcontinent. “For example, many passengers know they want to buy Johnnie Walker Black Label. The motivation for this purchase is driven by value and convenience – so price is an important factor for many. In fact, we are seeing more and more passengers use digital technology to price-check items now.” Diageo aims to make it convenient for travelers stocking up by offering easy-tocarry twin- and tri-packs, and grab-andgo packs. MacDonald points out Diageo is committed to working smarter at driving footfall and improving conversion. There is a lot the company can do in the region without hosting tasting sessions. “Where we can sample [products], there are some products that disproportionately respond to sample; we know the Triple Cask liquid profile is slightly sweeter than Black Label. A lot of our brands need visibility and
staff engagement, which are more effective than sampling,” she continues. Diageo has seen a number of successful launches in the region recently, including Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years, a rebranding of its multi-award-winning Johnnie Walker Platinum Label. MacDonald describes the product as an indulgent blend of up to 18 different whiskies. The new name and packaging celebrate its credentials as the best 18yo blend ever made by the world-famous Scotch brand. Other releases from the world’s number one Scotch have also been a success in the region, including Johnnie Walker Blue Label Casks Edition – Middle East Limited Edition. The bottle features a design by renowned artist Rana Zaher, which depicts the journey of the Johnnie Walker brand from Scotland to the Arabian Gulf in the Middle East. More recently, Diageo collaborated with TV network HBO on the release of White Walker by Johnnie Walker Blended Scotch Whisky, a limited-edition Scotch whisky blend inspired by the chill-inducing White Walkers characters from the fantasy drama Game of Thrones. Inside the frosty white bottle is a new whisky to the Johnnie Walker portfolio, featuring notes of caramelized sugar, vanilla, and fresh red berries with a touch of orchard fruit. “We will support the launch with a number of inspiring in-store and digital experiences that will bring to life this exciting new product launch in the region. I can’t reveal too much information on this activity just yet but stay tuned,” says MacDonald. Looking beyond the Scotch whisky category, MacDonald says gin has become one of the fastest-growing spirits categories in travel retail, and the business was “very pleased” with the recent launch of Gordon’s Premium Pink Gin in the region. For the year ahead, Diageo has an exciting innovation pipeline aimed at recruiting consumers, driving penetration and driving overall category growth. “There is a lot happening in the Middle East, and we will continue to work with our partners in the region to showcase our iconic brands, set the benchmark for retail excellence and create engaging shopping experiences for travelers,” concludes MacDonald.
www.dutyfreemag.com GULF-AFRICA DUTY FREE & TRAVEL RETAILING