A taste for the finer things in life (and Switzerland)

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Another day, another early start. Another visit to my second home, London Heathrow Airport.

I’m on my way to Zürich, Switzerland to see a much talked-about ‘Trinity’-style ‘Taste of Switzerland’ promotion involving airport, brands and retailer.

Cursed with a head cold that half of the delegates to the Cannes show seem to have returned with, London’s main gateway is not the place to make you feel better.

Heathrow Terminal 1 is a stark contrast to its swanky new sibling Terminal 5. T1 is truly awful. The early morning security queue sets the tone and it never gets much better.

I always try to be nice to security staff – they are doing a tough job and they are making our lives safer. But the Tuesday morning shift at T1 seems to be from the breed that thinks shouting at people and refusing to smile is actually conducive to improving the security delays that are of the airport company’s making – not the travellers’.

As always I check with the security staff member what needs to come out (laptop?) and off (shoes, watch etc). As I approach the screening machine the awaiting male security official says (loudly and in the tone one would normally reserve for an errant infant): “Oh go back and put your belt through Sir.”  No problem – but that 15-20 second delay could have been avoided in the first place by simply issuing the instruction earlier – especially as I had asked.

Given how much practice they have with queues, why is Heathrow Airport not better at managing them? If queues are a great British institution it may simpy be because the country has never learned to cope with them.

Food & beverage at Heathrow, like most airports, always does well in these early morning business rush hours.

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Despite another depressing queue, Caffè Nero seems my best bet for a quick coffee and snack before boarding.  It has a rather strange sign displayed saying ‘Open as usual’, an apparent reference to refurbishment work. ‘Queue as usual’ would be equally accurate but to be fair to the staff they handle each transaction quickly, pleasantly and with a smile. Their jobs are not that much easier than their security counterparts 50 metres away- but their attitudes are a million miles better.

After some welcome sleep on the SWISS flight, I arrive into Zürich Airport. It is not just a different country but a different world.

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The sky is blue, the sun is shining, the airport is clean, modern and welcoming. I feel better already.

‘Taste of Switzerland’ is the latest in the airport’s long-running and highly successful ‘Best of Switzerland’ promotional campaign. Zürich Airport takes its responsibility for being the country’s major gateway seriously and has repeatedly swung its full resources behind this concept.

Led by General Manager Zürich Janneke de Bruijn (below), the airport’s lead retailer, The Nuance Group, has really entered into the spirit of the campaign with passion and expertise.

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The collective impact is terrific. For years, The Moodie Report has championed the concept of ‘Sense of Place’ (a term first coined in the industry by Aer Rianta International-Middle East Managing Director John Sutcliffe). For years we have seen very few airports and retailers truly embrace this great notion in an inspirational way.

A token souvenir shopping offer is not enough – a country’s, region’s or city’s gateway should truly try to capture the crafts, cultures, history and traditions of its location. How many can really say that they do?

Zürich Airport can. Head Marketing Retail & Services Patrick Graf told us at the time of launch: “The Best of Switzerland campaign is not only a good way to share Swiss spirit with our passengers, it is also a great opportunity to educate our passengers in an exciting manner.

“The promotion is once more built on a ‘Trinity’ idea through which partners like The Nuance Group, Caviar House, Lindt & Sprüngli, Confisserie Sprüngli, Etter, Xellent, Toblerone, Valser Wasser and Cave Amann participate in a very professional approach.”

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I toured the airport yesterday with the proud Nuance and Zürich Airport teams. I also met Madeleine Hügli (above) from Diwisa Distillerie, producer of highly successful Swiss ultra-premium vodka Xellent (which is also excellent as I can testify after a tasting when I returned home last night) and Marcel Affolter from Cave Amann, a high-class producer of Swiss wines.

Madeleine is bursting with the spirit of Xellent and with pride in Switzerland. If just a fraction of her personality has been captured in the bottle then Xellent will prove unstoppable.

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Marcel (below) is a hugely engaging guy too, who takes delight in talking about the company’s and the country’s wines. He told me that barely any of Switzerland’s wine production is exported – canny people the Swiss, clearly they want to keep their secret to themselves – yet at best the quality is very good.

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I bought a great destination twin-pack (pictured below – and note how the traveller’s curiosity has been captured), in which the red features the words of the Swiss national anthem (what a great idea – New Zealand wine producers building up for the 2011 Rugby World Cup please take note – why not the anthem and the haka?) and the white the flags of the country’s various Cantons. Lovely, simple ideas, well executed.

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What I like most about Taste of Switzerland is the emphasis on education as well as commerce. For example, informative panels introduce travellers to the wine-producing regions of, say, Geneva, Valais, Vaud and Ticino, offering details on climate, grape varieties and production methods.

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Swiss spirits producer Etter (above) and Dettling showcase the unique manufacturing processes behind their distilled fruit spirits, such as the former’s world-famous Kirsch. The Xellent display shows how ‘the very essence of Swissness’ is produced and also features a tasting bar.

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Chocolate, of course, flavours the promotion – literally and metaphorically. At the Airside Centre’s level 2, the process of chocolate making is displayed, with a maître chocolateir producing chocolate artefacts in front of the customers’ eyes, while famous brands such as Lindt, Toblerone and Nestlé showcase their wares.

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Caviar House (below), a name synonymous with Swissness (although often using raw materials from other countries) adds further lustre to the promotion.

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Outside of The Nuance offer, the independently operated Sprüngli boutique has truly embraced the Taste of Switzerland concept. These images show the power of great display. Look at the queue pictured above (an acceptable, non-Heathrow T1 version). Then look at the picture below it, which shows how Sprüngli showcases the ingredients that go into great chocolate to customers as they wait to make their purchase. Who would not remain in that queue?

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Look out for a full report on Taste of Switzerland, both online and in our next Digital Print Edition. We plan to give it the extensive coverage that this great initiative deserves.

Zürich Airport and its partners (particularly The Nuance Group) are giving full voice to the Trinity concept and to the (sometimes) great notion of Sense of Place.

They are showing that an airport retail environment can and should be a national and or regional showcase and that partnership need not be a platitude but a fundamentally inherent element in how airport stakeholders do business for the benefit of all parties – most critically the travelling consumer. And if you don’t believe me, look at the pictures below.

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