MITR’s three-pronged recovery strategy puts the traveller back in the heart of the conversation says Mars Wrigley Global Category Director Raghav Rekhi

Mars Wrigley International Travel Retail (MITR) outlined the three pillars of its post-COVID-19 recovery strategy in a briefing on Wednesday. These are creating value for all, simplifying the portfolio and adding fun to the traveller journey.

The strategy underscores MITR’s mission to put the traveller back at the heart of the travel retail conversation. It asks three key questions to better meet evolving traveller demands. How they will shop? Why they will shop? And what will be their decision drivers?

MITR predicts that as safety and hygiene continue to be a priority in the post-COVID-19 retail environment, consumers will be spending less time in stores and focusing on more planned purchase over impulse purchases.

According to Mars Wrigley Global Category Director Raghav Rekhi, value for money will play a bigger role in the future. He said: “The economic fallout due to COVID-19 will impact purchasing power, shifting value equations in the mind of consumers. Mainstream and trusted brands will play a significant role as brand trust ranks highly in the needs of travellers. The unique products and experiences that brands bring to life in the duty free environment will also play a key role.”

How will they shop, why will they shop and what are their decision drivers? Three questions that MITR is asking about consumer needs and demands.

Value for All

“90% of category sales comes from sharing and gifting purchase occasions, and this won’t change,” said Rekhi, who noted that there will be a greater demand for value in sharing products and a greater demand for premiumisation of gifting products in the confectionery segment.

To address these evolving demands, MITR is launching a new travel retail-exclusive range of tablets or ‘block chocolates’ for M&M’s in Q2 2021. Block chocolates contribute 40% of domestic confectionery sales globally but only 14% of category sales in travel retail. This is an opportunity the company hopes to leverage with the launch.

To strengthen its gifting portfolio, MITR is also coming to market with a new range developed in partnership with the travelling customer. This new premium range is set to launch in worldwide travel retail in Q3 2021.

In addition, the confectionery giant is launching limited-edition fudge brownie and chocolate bite-sized M&M’s flavours for summer 2021. It is also releasing a new 333gm format for its chocolate bar products, with a ‘2 for 10’ offer launching with selected travel retailers.

The company notes that there will be a greater demand for value in sharing products and a greater demand for premiumisation in gifting products

MITR is launching new limited-edition flavours to drive its core M&M’s range which drove +42% incremental growth in 2019

Simplifying the Portfolio

Rekhi stressed that only 9% of the MITR’s confectionery portfolio contributes to 80% of category sales. In light of this, the company has implemented an aggressive portfolio simplification strategy which saw it downsize from 162 SKUs in 2019 to less than 100 in 2020.

The company aims to further scale back its portfolio to only 50 SKUs by 2021, effectively removing 50% of the portfolio this year. Rekhi hopes the simplified portfolio will allow travellers to find the products they love most with more speed and require less retailer resources.

The company’s aggressive portfolio simplification strategy will enhance best-seller visibility, enable faster purchase decisions and help the company stand out for impulse purchases

Make Journeys Fun

According to Rekhi, making the traveller journey fun is more relevant than ever in the current climate. MITR’s strategy leverages some of the company’s most significant learnings over the last 18 months to create more fun and engaging airport activations over the next year.

Following the success of the M&M’s media campaign in 2019, MITR is releasing a brand new campaign, starring popular M&M’s characters Red and Yellow, to global travel retail in 2021. The M&M’s campaign reached 25 million travellers in 2019 and contributed to a +33% increase in sell-out. It was the top global airport media campaign for confectionery, said the company.

The need for fun and engaging activations in the travel retail environment is more relevant than ever says MITR. Pictured above is the colourful M&M’s activation at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport last February

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, MITR has remained committed to putting the safety and wellbeing of its employees and customers first. The company donated US$20 million to various relief organisations around the world, including the UN World Food Programme and the Mars Wrigley Foundation.

The company also drove its ‘Sustainable in a Generation Plan’ which is built on three purposeful areas for growth: healthy planet, thriving people and nourishing wellbeing. Some key goals include reducing 100% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and improving the working lives of 1 million people across its value chain.

Commenting on how MITR plans to boost conversion amidst low passenger numbers, Rekhi said: “In travel retail, the complacency has set in for a number of categories because of the consistent increase in passenger numbers. This crisis is an opportunity for all brands and retailers to come together and understand what the traveller is looking for and what their needs are.

“I often question why retailers have so much inventory and brands available that don’t seem to be giving the returns they expect. We need to be asking the more challenging question of why we bring things to market. Because it is more important to give travellers what they are looking for – rather than launching new things for the sake of doing it.”

And about travel retail’s recovery as a whole, Rekhi was cautiously optimistic. “With time, travel retail will regain its scale,” he said. “By putting the traveller at the heart of the brands, we will create better moments for travellers, which will lead to a sustained recovery. A recovery which we are hopeful will start in 2021, and hope to sustain for years to come, bringing back growth to the confectionery segment in the channel.”