Snowberry, pōwhiri, Pinot Noir and the All Blacks – how Kiwis fly high

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My various Moodie Davitt Report Interim Bureaux are closed and I’m bound back to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific 198 for a couple of nights before heading onto London and then down to Cannes this coming weekend for the TFWA World Exhibition.

It’s been an all-too fleeting return to my homeland but six days is a whole lot better than the none I have experienced since my last visit in 2011.

As I can now reveal, the main purpose of my trip was to report on the global travel retail launch of a unique Kiwi brand, Snowberry, now owned by FMCG giant P&G, in association with Aelia Duty Free (Lagardère Travel Retail).

This was no ordinary launch and Snowberry is no ordinary product. The unveiling at Auckland Airport was a brilliant spectacle, anchored by a stirring Maori pōwhiri (welcoming ceremony), featuring a wero (challenge) from a Maori warrior who lay down a small branch for P&G Global Skin Care President Markus Strobel Markus Strobel to pick up (signifying traditionally that the recipient has come in peace). Guests were then entertained by a rousing Maori haka and songs, a real show-stopper in the middle of a busy air terminal.

For a Kiwi such as me, it was a thrilling reminder of our indigenous culture. For the many international passengers who stood by to watch proceedings it was a welcome, exciting and unexpected introduction to Maoridom.

I also liked the Snowberry high-profile promotion (pictured below) very much. It combined digital media; exhilarating images evoking the clean, green world from which Snowberry emanates; and great product display.

The highlight of my visit, though came the next day with a visit to the land from whence the Snowberry ingredients originate. The Snowberry Gardens, some 90 minutes north of Auckland, are a place of wonder. Snowberry founders Soraya Hendesi and her husband Mark Henderson bought this vast 22-hectare plot over a decade ago, planting over 8,000 native plants and shrubs there. The end result represents one of the world’s only skincare bio-discovery gardens, a place of wonder and great beauty. You could walk around the estate for hours, your jaw dropping at every turn.

Martin Moodie with Snowberry co-founder Soraya Hendesi

“He’s bee-hind you…”
“Oh no he isn’t…”
Oh yes, he is. Immune-boosting Kanuka Honey Extract is harvested for use in various Snowberry products

You can read all about it in a special edition of The Moodie Davitt eZine that I will be publishing later this week. I promise you, it’s an extraordinary story.

While at Auckland Airport I caught up with Lagardère Travel Retail General Manager New Zealand Grzegorz (Greg) Cuber, pictured below, who proudly showed me the Official All Blacks Store, a nice retail homage to the country’s all-conquering national rugby team.

Grzegorz revealed that Lagardère Travel Retail was opening a similar store at Christchurch Airport the next day. And as it happened, I had decided to spend the weekend in Christchurch, my hometown, so was able to experience the brand new store upon my arrival. And what an experience it is, with a choice of four hakas available to watch courtesy of a digital touchscreen and some great merchandise.

The store opening was particularly timely given that the Rugby World Cup in Japan – where New Zealand’s national side, the All Blacks, are the defending champions – kicked off the same day. The All Blacks are going for an unprecedented third consecutive triumph and rugby fever has taken hold in the country.

The following night I watched an epic match between the All Blacks and their fearsome arch-rivals, South Africa, won by the All Blacks after a titanic struggle 23-13. I’ve got a sneaking feeling that the same two teams might meet in the final, though I also rate the chances of Ireland, England, Australia and perhaps France.

This morning I flew back from Christchurch to Auckland Airport and once again caught up with Greg who, knowing that my interest in wine matched that of my interest in rugby, talked me through Aelia’s excellent New Zealand wine offer, together with his outstanding wine expert Jimmy.

I bought a bottle of Peregrine Pinot Noir 2016 from Central Otago (home to some of New Zealand’s greatest Pinot Noirs) on Jimmy’s recommendation, while Greg, in a lovely kind touch, presented me with a bottle of Tom from Church Road in Hawke’s Bay. The name and the wine denotes a tribute to one of the great pioneers of New Zealand winemaking, Tom McDonald. Greg, who told me that he has been avidly reading The Moodie Davitt Report for the past 13 years, also presented me with an official All Blacks rugby ball, signed by you know who. Yes, the 2019 Rugby World Cup champions…

Greg at the highly successful La Prairie space
With Greg and Jimmy in the superb Aelia Duty Free wine department

During a busy few hours in transit, I also managed to catch up with The Loop General Manager New Zealand Tom Byrne, who is also a board member of The Loop’s owner Aer Rianta International. The Irish company is doing very well at Auckland in a straight contest with Aelia for the traveller’s spend – the wise men and women of the New Zealand Commerce Commission having decided some years ago that a two-operator system (both selling the same categories) served the travelling public better than a solus retailer.

Left or right. Aelia or The Loop? Both top-class offers but is a dual-operator model logical in an airport the size of Auckland?

Nonsense, of course, but it is what it is, and both retailers are doing an excellent job in trying to deliver value and quality to the travelling public. Who will Tom support in the event of an All Blacks v Ireland final (a strong possibility)? Well you know the answer to that…

I also had a good chat with Auckland International Airport Limited General Manager – Retail and Commercial Richard Barker. Richard has led a profoundly ambitious and innovative overhaul of the airport’s commercial offer, one that has not only paid off in financial terms but in terms of a much-improved ASQ rating.

The Auckland Airport airside experience is a really interesting mix, comprising high-quality duty free, a strong destination merchandise offer, diverse F&B and lots of specialist retail. I spent a decent amount of money today, not because I was being loyal to my home country but simply because there so was much on offer. All Blacks cufflinks to don during the Cannes show, great New Zealand wine, and artisan chocolate from the hugely Whittaker’s standalone unit (pictured above, run by Aelia Duty Free).

Poorer in one sense but richer as always for having returned home. As always, I leave New Zealand with a deep pang of regret in my heart, but this time it won’t take me eight years to return.

(Above and below) Emirates Leisure Retail has just opened the Vantage Bar, featuring a massive digital screen, perfect for watching Rugby World Cup games, and splendid views of the airport beyond.

Oma Artisan Bakery & Café won the FAB Judges’ Distinction Award for Foodie Flair at the 2019 FAB Awards in Dallas