Local heroes on the move: How a growing number of local brands are gaining presence at airports

The long-standing relationship between people and brands is broken. According to Havas Media, 54 percent of consumers worldwide do not trust brands. Much of the trust, respect and loyalty people had for many global brands have been falling for the last three decades. Due to irresponsible business practices and food scandals that have recently been in the news around the world, the dominant sentiment is that many organisations have become big by doing wrong.

This confrontation of consumers with the consequences of mass consumption, results that consumers are slowly changing the way they live and consume. Consumption has moved beyond the merely transactional an instead of looking for “more”, consumers are on the look out for honest products and services in an authentic environment. They search for unique places and brands that they do want to be associated with and improve their wellbeing but most importantly, they can trust.

The rise of local flavor
Trust starts from scratch again by smaller companies and brands that are quite close to us. Brands which want to do right instead of doing less worse. And that’s why we see the rise of local flavor. Just have a look at the rising number of urban farmer markets or eco-friendly products in supermarkets.  And why is it that we search for this radically good coffee made by a passionate barista in a place where we feel at home?

Local brands have a strong cultural identity and meet unique local needs or tastes. They listen to consumers and respond to the messages they receive. They want to know how people really feel about them and involve them in developing the brand.

Local brands are hot due to their customer centric focus and their cultural identity but also because they offer great value for money. To counter the powerful appeal of smaller and unique brands that have a much easier time winning consumer hearts and minds, global brands however respond by adapting their strategy. A good example is Starbucks who is now becoming more sensitive to cultural differences and designing its branches to reflect regional tastes. In Japan they adapted their design to the local market and in 2013 it opened an experimental shop in Amsterdam, a showcase of slow-brew coffee, local craftsmanship and eco-friendly furnishings. And recently McDonalds added local flair to appeal to Chinese consumers and is testing out a locally-infused design that highlights different aspects of Chinese culture.

Move beyond placeless space
Tyler Brûlé from Monocle underlined in his speech at the ACI Trading Conference at Zurich that the age of mass, uniform, global sameness has passed. Mature consumers move on to products that offer a full story of tradition and craftsmanship. Connecting your products or services to specific locales will make them more relevant, more exclusive and correspondingly more exciting and desirable.

“Who wants the same brands trotted out again and again?” - Tyler Brûlé

So how do airports respond to this movement? We all know the successful stories at airports of national celebrities like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey. But global travellers do expect more, they want to experience local brands and culture that reflect the true atmosphere of the city an airport serves. So airports start designing local flavored terminals, start partnering with local brands and are developing local platforms in terminal; a pop up place, which offers smaller retailers, but also museums or local designers,  the ability to show their concepts in the airport without a significant initial investment.

We selected some examples from airports around the world to show how locals brands are gaining presence at airports. 

Local heroes
Four female local chefs will launch a new restaurant at Heathrow’s Terminal 2, to be opened in June 2014. The Gorgeous Kitchen is about delivering honest flavors with quality produce and great British hospitality in a warm and approachable environment. The Gorgeous Kitchen will serve quick, wholesome and seasonal dishes utilising British-grown produce and offers a ‘gorgeous’ afternoon tea for travellers seeking a quintessential British treat.

WB Samson opened an outlet at Oslo Airport, a sense of place where you feel at home and experience the Norwegian hospitality. WB Samson is a family-owned bakery, which was started by William Bismark Samson in 1894 on Egertorget square in downtown Oslo. Today it is run by the fourth and fifth generations of the same family, and still bakes its breads following craft methods that date back more than two centuries, using only natural ingredients.

Storytelling concepts
Local products are exclusive and tell great stories. What about the mystery and romance of the Jamón Ibérico ham, the treasure of the Spanish cuisine? La Bellota at (amongst others) Madrid Barajas Airport sells Ibérico products in a Spanish flavored store, including a dedicated space for slicing ham by hand in the traditional manner. La Bellota offers consumers the chance to taste hams from areas like Teruel, Salamanca, Huelva and Cáceres, paired with the Spanish wines. Sibarium Delicatessen offers its customers an exquisite selection of typical foods from different regions of Spain. The products stocked are of very high quality, in most cases with guarantee of origin or traditional products.

Local pop up
Exhibitions or pop up platforms play is a creative solution in informing passengers about a country and its range of tourist destinations and products. At Copenhagen Airport a temporary living showroom was created to give travellers a chance to peek behind the scenes of some of the strongest Danish design brands since Danish design has long been one of the most significant trademarks of Denmark.  From jewellery, woven cane seats and innovative bicycles.

To promote local culture and design, Oulu Airport has placed several Finnish design rocket chairs, handmade by a small family business in Finland.

The popularity of pop-up shops has even led to some airports developing their own pop-up programmes for locals. They include San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which recently announced that the first two contracts under its dedicated new pop-up concessions programme had been awarded to McEvoy of Marin – a producer of local, organic, olive oil and a natural body care line — and Collector – a Berkeley-based shop selling locally made art and hand-crafted goods.

Local produce
Consumers crave a stronger connection with what they buy and eat. They are looking for products that are produced sustainable and consumed locally. Since a few years Chicago O’Hare  airport has a vertical aeroponic herbs & green gardens. La Place at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is following up this great example of local produce and recently opened a new outlet with a herb garden. At La Place everything is 100% natural, daily fresh and homemade. The home-grown herbs will be used in the dishes served and will help make guests more aware of what they eat.

As consumers in a globalised and online marketplace embrace authentic and responsible brands that add value and meaning to their lives — brands to be proud of, brands with a story — it is no surprise that airports are increasingly partnering with local brands in order to fulfill the needs of consumers for authenticity and to add a local sense of place to the airport experience.


Most recent trend briefings