TFWA started on Monday

TFWA started on Monday

There's usually a surprise or two at the Tax Free World Association (TFWA) World Exhibition in Cannes.

This year was no different, with Heineken revealing plans to expand the launch of six beers from little-known New Zealand craft label Monteith into Northern Europe, the UK and Travel Retail. But, while it may be tempting to view this as the Dutch brewer's big play in the craft beer category - a move already made by some of the other big brewers - the man behind the launch says otherwise.

Talking to just-drinks aboard the Heineken boat moored in Cannes harbour, Travel Retail head Sean McNaughten said Monteith cannot be Heineken's craft beer entry, because the brewer has been selling the brand in New Zealand since it took full control of Asia Pacific Breweries (APB). Heineken has a long history with the Monteith brand: APB, which was a JV between the Dutch brewer and Fraser & Neave, bought a half-share in Monteith's owner, DB Breweries, in 1987 and snapped up the rest in 2004. 

Now, for the first time - other than from a few specialist outlets in the UK - Monteith's will be available to buy outside of New Zealand as Heineken's small brand incubation unit, Beers of the World, takes charge of distribution. If the beer is a success, expect the company to move it up into its portfolio proper.

Back on the shop floor at TFWA, day two - Tuesday - appeared much busier. Exhibitors who on Monday complained about lack of traffic were happier as footfall noticeably picked up.

The Maxxium stand was standing-room only, forcing the marketing manager for new JV Edrington FIX to meet just-drinks in an ice-cream restaurant down the Croisette. Celine Cabannes, who is also the marketing manager for FIX, hasn't even got new business cards printed up yet, but said the venture, launched last month, is already a happy marriage and has given the small team at FIX the stability to make plans all the way to 2020.

It was a tight squeeze at SPI Group's stand too, but CMO Marco Ferrari was in an expansive mood, covering topics such as a possible change to the Stolichnaya label (if so, its first since the 1960s), a move away from flavoured vodkas and a just-launched app that makes a montage of a consumer's party-night snaps and video. He even spoke at length on the challenges SPI has faced when it found itself on the receiving end of a gay boycott of Russian vodka, sparked by the introduction of anti-homosexual legislation by the Russian Government.

Ferrari said the damage done by the boycott to volumes was “minimal” - the real fear was how much it could cost the company's reputation. But, ever the optimist, Ferrari said that the boycott may even have been good for the company as it gave SPI a chance to talk about its long-standing support of gay rights and its work within the community.

Yesterday morning, Hine Cognac managing director Francois Le Grelle was up early to talk about his company's sale from CL World Brands to EDV SAS, two months ago.

Le Grelle said his team is happy to be back under the control of a French company (Hine was sold to Trinidad & Tobago-based CL World Brands by LVMH in 2003) and is looking to up its presence in Africa and South America. He also had a word of warning for Cognac houses dreaming of a fall in the price of eau de vie because of a lessening in demand in China. He said China is not like Japan, which saw a collapse in rocketing Cognac sales in the 1990s when its economy stuttered. China, Le Grelle said, “is in love” with Cognac. Demand is not about to disappear and high eau de vie prices will likely remain so.

On the subject of TFWA Cannes, Le Grelle was also optimistic. Hine, which has exhibited at Singapore's TFWA Asia Pacific for the past five years and takes about 29% of its sales in China, will not go to next year’s Asian TFWA event, so that it can focus solely on Cannes.

It seems the show, set in the same town as the Cannes film festival, still retains its A-list appeal.