Close Menu

The top 10 trends from TFWA Asia Pacific

The TFWA Asia Pacific Conference & Exhibition culminates today, following four show days filled with meetings, networking and events. Here, db delves into the key takeaways from the show.

AI and ‘new consumerism’

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the talk of the TFWA Asia Pacific Conference this year with many brand owners describing how quickly new technologies are going to change the way we interact with drinks marketing. In a segment titled ‘Asia Pacific takes off’ the London School of Economics, author, economist and professor Keyu Jin said: “Asian economy is characterised by high resilience and large economic potential” and described how it is this tenacity and willingness to always move things forwards and seek out better that makes it so discerning incrementally.

In terms of drinks, Jin explained that it is this drive that makes the customer always want to seek out the best available item that suits their core values and hinted that “consumption upgrading” and “lifestyle consumption is the next big thing” and added that the “new generation of savvy consumers will redefine the economic and political landscape”.

Jin noted that companies could also begin to “climb up the value chain through smart manufacturing” and stated that “Artificial Intelligence (AI), and data is a manifestation of the fourth industrial revolution” and coined this trend “AI and new consumerism”.

The opportunities in China

Speaking to db at the show while exhibiting with Duty Free Global, BBC Spirits Europe sales director Romain Papillon predicted “that Chinese whisky will be the next big thing in the whisky world” and certainly one to watch. Also eyeing China, Bottega Spa founder and managing director Sandro Bottega admitted that “even though China is always very difficult to distribute into because of all of the regulations, the Chinese market, for now, will remain stable” and noted that he does “see important growth in Hong Kong and in markets where Chinese people go on their travels”.

Similarly, La Martiniquaise-Bardinet group communication manager Donatien Ferrari revealed that there were plans for the business to look at expanding into: “Mainland China”.

During the conference, Jin reiterated how “even if China slows down, its absolute contribution to the global economy is still enormous” and outlined how “50% of the global consumer class are in Asia, and half of its population are middle class” and heralded the market as “one of the most connected components for the global supply chain.”

Aircraft seat capacity and inflight

Looking at ways to travel that won’t lead to more planes in the air, the global travel retail sector has been rumoured to be eyeing the fact that airlines will become more capacious. All of this is set to have an impact on inflight duty free opportunities with the prospect appealing to global travel retailer who are also looking to reach their sustainability goals.

Speaking as a moderator at the show this week, author and venture capitalist Azran Osman-Rani observed that “most Asian airports become slot-congested” and that this means that there is demand for travel, but the sector may need to evolve to meet all needs both consumer, retailer, airport and planet. Osman-Rani predicted that, to assist with this, the drinks industry should take note because it may “see more higher-seat capacity aircraft being used even for short haul routes” and this could be an insight into how things develop for the future of drinks marketing in travel retail while in the air.

Zero alcohol products

As this consumer trend sweeps the globe, global travel retail will also feel its impact. Speaking candidly about it at his stand during the show, Bottega highlighted how he had been “noticing zero-alcohol categories are growing, even though this segment is still low volume” and observed how the low and no alcohol trend is all about situational consumption, or rather the drink needed to suit the consumer’s needs for refreshment, but not always contain much alcohol. He went on further to explain that the trend was about incorporating zero alcohol brands into consumer’s repertoire of other drinking habits, rather than simply appealing with sobriety messaging. He explained: “Of course these products appeal to a demographic of people who don’t drink alcohol, but really they appeal to people who do drink, but don’t always choose to drink”. Recognising the trend more as a way of managing many other responsibilities like working, parenting or driving as well as the day’s demands, he added: “This is a new trend in consumption and it has come about because people who drink alcohol don’t always want to drink alcohol every day.”


La Martiniquaise-Bardinet group communication manager Donatien Ferrari described how the trend for coffee flavours in cocktails has continued over the past few years and still not waned and highlighted how the Espresso Martini is actually still getting more popular than ever before, especially in Asia.

Speaking at the show, Distilleries et Domaines de Provence export and duty free manager Jean-Pierre told db that the innovation to take note of next also coffee gin. Trouillet admitted that “mixing the trends between coffee and gin” was something that made a lot of sense, because “one of the biggest cocktail trends is the Espresso Martini cocktail”.

In creating the drink, he said: “We didn’t want it too dry as we wanted people to serve it over ice. It took a year to make it because gin is bitter and coffee is bitter and it was very hard to find the right balance at first. But this product is awesome and everybody loves it.”

Trouillet added: “We will be in plenty of markets in bars and we will enter Dubai Duty Free, in the Middle East” and admitted: “It’s already with Kingpower”.


Where something is from and its messages of authenticity remain paramount in drinks marketing across the travel retail stage. Most notably due to the fact that people are looking for souvenirs that tell a story of the place they have just visited. But the trend for provenance isn’t just about where something comes from, but also its heritage or what went into making it exist.

“Gin has a wonderful sense of place,” said Four Pillars Gin founder and distiller Camerin Mackenzie, who told db: “You know, most gins are trying to have almost a terroir about them. So, for us, it’s simply the use of native botanicals. Nowhere tastes like Australia. We’ve got the most incredible native botanicals of any country in the world. Lemon Myrtle, Tasmanian pepper finger lions, Macadamia nuts, all sorts of things. And then we can use fresh citrus. I think having that sense of place makes a gin a really fantastic thing, whether they’re buying a drink themselves or as a gift”.

Also giving a nod to destination spirits, if you look at Suntory Global Spirits – which has freshly re-branded since 1 May – it is also using the travel retail channel to showcase its Yamazaki and Hakushu Kogei Collection, showing that consumers are seeking unique drinks that have a sense of place. For instance, the gin was heralded for being produced as the “Japanese Kimono Edition” and ‘Kogei’ can be translated as ‘traditional Japanese craftmanship’ which amplifies the local skill involved in making it. Reflecting this further, the collection also explores the traditional crafts of Japan through selected artisan partnerships with the aim of encapsulating local artistry.

Exclusive giftable products

Quite possibly, the important part of global travel retail is the way it can showcase items to a captive audience who are all looking for something they can’t get anywhere else to take home for either themselves or loved ones. The trend of uniqueness and exclusivity alongside giftability often flies under the radar. But, in the case of Loch Lomond Group, which recently unveiled a new, dedicated travel retail exclusive range for its single malt whisky brand Loch Lomond, it has shown it has its thumb on the pulse. The release, named The Remarkable Stills Collection features four distinct non chill-filtered whiskies, each crafted to embody key elements of Loch Lomond’s whisky philosophy and produced from spirit drawn from a variety of stills at precise moments and matured in unusual oak casks from across the globe giving the consumer uniqueness and exclusivity in spades.

Speaking to db, Luke Maga, Loch Lomond Group managing director – global travel retail said: “The launch of the Loch Lomond Remarkable Stills Collection is a pivotal moment for the brand, presenting a new and unique opportunity to engage with discerning whisky enthusiasts in global travel retail” and added that “the collection offers travellers an unforgettable taste of Loch Lomond’s unparalleled quality” and revealed that it would “roll out in the channel later this year.”

Next generation consumers

Whether looking at Gen Z or Millennials, the general consensus from the show this year was that the drinks sector is keenly watching new consumers entering the category as they travel for the first time as adults. Describing the opportunity new consumers present, especially young adults travelling in Asia, drinks companies referenced next generation consumers as an “untapped opportunity”.

Santa Margherita Gruppo Vinicolo export director Giacomo Marzotto told db: “As we heard in the conference, 60% of the world’s millennials live in Asia, so there is clearly a lot of untapped opportunity here. In our specific category the prominence of white and sparkling wine is a lot less in Asia than it is in Europe or North America – but I am a strong believer that this will change – and at a very fast pace.” Santa Margherita, which comprises nine different wine estates across six Italian regions (and one in Oregon’s Willamette Valley) asserted that it is strongly positioned in Asia “because of exceptional quality and good prices” but noted how even as tastes change, the audience is still the same.


There is so much to be said about oak when it comes to wine, but now spirits companies are getting in on the action. Examples of this seen at the show include Bacardi Global Travel Retail which chose this year’s event to showcase its latest innovation from its Dewer’s blended Scotch whisky portfolio. But it wasn’t any ordinary whisky, because oak played a fundamental role.

Essentially, Dewar’s Double Double 21 Year Old Stone Toasted was outlined by Bacardi as one of its key whisky innovations and it revealed that it had plans to launch it this year, with a travel retail exclusive Discovery Pack of two expressions to feature exclusively with China Duty Free Group throughout May.

“Dewer’s s constantly innovating, so it’s only natural to explore how new flavour experiences can be created for our whisky drinkers,” explained master blender Stephanie Macleod. “The Stone Toasting method was originally created for finishing wine, and we were intrigued to explore the effect on whisky. This series is all about showcasing the impact of the oak on the finishing liquid: American versus French, toasting levels and the source of the heat. Gently toasting the wood slowly opens the oak, which extracts softer, silkier textures and more refined, richer flavours from the cask.”

Planet-friendly activities

There are, indeed, countless examples of sustainability initiatives sweeping across travel retail, but speaking at the Torres stand, Bruno Teixeira, global travel retail director reminded that Torres has been here all along and added that what sets the Torres brand apart is its legacy as a family winery and commitment to “excellence, innovation and sustainability” which upholds its planet-friendly activities. Torres has been part of leading the fight against climate change for many years, adapting and mitigating its effects, but more importantly, raising awareness and encouraging collaboration among wineries to address it as an unprecedented threat. This is, essentially, just another example of how far drinks companies have come, that their messaging is primarily about making the world a better place.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No