Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Tito's Handmade Vodka got on the world's largest airline

Tito Beveridge: A man and his vodka
If you fly United Airlines, you're not alone in your misery: since swallowing Continental, it's the world's largest airline. One would think placing a product on board would be great for two reasons: the brand would make money, and would be shown every day to a huge captive audience.

Vodka is easily America's favorite spirit. United used to serve Absolut vodka.

Earlier this year, Absolut told the airline, we don't want to make those little bottles anymore. Too much trouble. So Absolut walked away from the contract.

Doug Frost, the MW who oversees United's wine and spirits program, told this story with astonishment. United offered to pay more; Absolut wasn't interested. The Swedish vodka maker simply didn't want to deal with miniatures. Seems insane.

Frost considered Finlandia and Skyy as replacements, but picked Tito's Handmade Vodka because he says he wanted something a little edgier.

So now, while vodka is usually the least interesting spirit on any drink list, with apologies to Bombay Sapphire gin, vodka is the most interesting spirit on United.

Tito needs to learn how to say, "Thank you very much!" in Swedish.

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Robert said...

Does seem weird. The 375 mL market is a small niche but growing, especially for PET bottles. There are many wineries who would kill to get their product on an airline, any airline. I bet we might see someone from Absolut without a job for being short-sighted.

Unknown said...

The problem is...no one make money selling to the airline...in the long haul.

I've sold lots of wine to airlines. And airlines pay rock, rock, ROCK bottom prices. Domestic Coach wine is in the low $20's per 9 liter case...which is normally 187mLs. Domestic first is in the low $30s. International business is in the mid $50s per case. And of course now, with the HUGE mega airlines, you have to have, literally, oceans of the stuff.

Airlines use to pick "regional" wines as well. So, Delta for example, would have Spanish wines on flights from JFK to MAD.

The only reason for Tito's to do this is they get MASSIVE awareness and trial. MASSIVE. And from a business perspective, you write off the cost by saying, "we're essentially paying or a captive audience trying our product."

After all...vodka drinkers aren't going to switch to Miller Light because Absolut is gone.