May 27 2024  |  People

NITR General Manager Stewart Dryburgh announces retirement

By Laura Shirk

Stewart Dryburgh, General Manager at Nestlé International Travel Retail 

After a working career of 38 years, with 26 years at Nestlé and 12 running Nestlé’s travel retail business unit, industry thought-leader Stewart Dryburgh is taking early retirement at the end of June. 

Dryburgh first joined Nestlé in 1998 in the UK before moving to the international travel retail division in 2002 as General Manager. He made his first mark in 2004, when asserting that the confectionery category (then worth US$1.4 billion), could be doubled in five years. “I saw huge, untapped opportunities for confectionery in travel retail,” he says. “Thanks to the support and belief both from retailers and other brand owners, we achieved that goal.”

In 2006, Dryburgh moved to New Delhi to drive Nestlé's confectionery business in South Asia, one of the world's largest and fastest growing emerging markets. He then returned to Switzerland in 2009 to become Global Brand Director for KITKAT, Nestlé's iconic billionaire confectionery brand. In his time brand growth accelerated significantly driven by geographic expansion in Latin America and industry leading consumer and digital engagement. Digital leadership was best encapsulated by the Android KITKAT partnership with Google in 2013.

Dryburgh returned to travel retail in 2016 and after successfully steering the business through the pandemic he identified the opportunity to drive the wider food category. In 2021, Nestlé announced its "Food #1" ambition, with the aim to drive food to become the number one most purchased category in travel retail.

“Leveraging the COVID-induced travel-free during the pandemic we began exploring how we could accelerate industry recovery overall and grow our category. When we compared category performance, we saw that food (including confectionery) was at best flat in global travel retail but in very healthy value growth in domestic. In addition confectionery was 77% of food sales in travel retail, whilst it was only 7% in domestic. Subsequent bespoke research with travellers, in particular led by the fast growing millennial and Gen Z groups across all key nationalities confirmed a clear opportunity to accelerate food category growth.” he explains.

“As the world’s largest food company, it was natural that we should lead the development of this opportunity for our industry. 

"The subsequent response we received from our retail partners has been extremely positive. In practical terms over the past two years we have begun to execute concepts beyond confectionery, encompassing wellbeing, coffee and sustainability in-store. The results are extremely promising with the latest industry data showing that food category penetration accelerating quickly from 30% to 37% of baskets. Food is quickly closing in on the number one most frequently purchased category, well ahead of our anticipated timeline."

A long-time supporter of key industry conferences Dryburgh has been a regular speaker on stage, sharing his vision for the food and confectionery category, leading conversations not only on driving sales of this sector, but also on the importance of sustainability and wider regeneration projects.

“I’m proud to have supported key initiatives, such as the Trinity Forum from its inception,” he continues. Then Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe was the keynote speaker at the first Trinity Forum and more recent industry events such as the TR Consumer Forum and TR Sustainability Week have received strong Nestlé support. ‘‘We’ve always been keen to recognise excellence and in this spirit we’ve been the proud sponsor of 'Airport Retailer of the Year' at the Frontier Awards for many years. It’s also been a great honour for Nestlé to have been recognised as Supplier of the Year in the Frontier awards in 2022 and 2023.” he adds.

“I’d finally like to sincerely thank so many people who have helped along the journey; my wonderful team at Nestlé for their incredible support over the years, our key travel retail partners across the world, our amazing agency and supplier partners, our vital industry associations and of course the invaluable global travel retail media. Travel retail has been a wonderful part of my working journey and I have a plethora of fond memories to take with me. I look forward to staying in touch with all the friends I’ve made through the years.”

Dryburgh’s replacement will start on September 1 and will be announced shortly.

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