Travel

As travel recovers, Delta is attracting more food and beverage startups.

Yoni Reisman founded his startup Tip Top Cocktails in September 2019 with the goal of effectively offering premium cocktails in a can. Being from Atlanta, Delta Airlines was considered by him as a possible wholesale client.

But it wasn’t until the middle of the pandemic, when Delta was re-launching its in-flight beverage service, that the conversation began. And from April 2021, Delta began serving canned old-fashioned drinks and Tip Top margaritas aboard its domestic flights.

Tip Top is one of several new food and beverage brands Delta began offering when it reintroduced in-flight services in 2021 after pandemic-era restrictions. By partnering with one of the country’s largest airlines, the founders say they have been able to increase brand awareness, hire more staff and strengthen the existing business.

Raisman said recent customer surveys show that about 20% of Tip Top customers learned about the brand while on a Delta flight. Outkast’s Big Boi shouted out the brand on social media during the flight, as did chef Kevin Gillespie.

“Because we’re on Delta, a lot more people are aware of Tip Top’s existence,” Reisman said.

Delta has paid special attention to working with underrepresented populations and those who are conscious of their business. Some of them are newer startups while others are more established. Mike Henry, managing director of Onboard Services Operations, told Modern Retail in an email that when considering its new offerings, Delta looked to smaller, value-driven brands with unique products.

“We really want to create constructive relationships in addition to providing the best possible customer experience.” Henry said.

Scaling

But merging individual brands with one of the world’s largest airlines doesn’t happen overnight. Delta operates over 4,000 flights per day and serves approximately 200 million customers annually. This meant brands had to figure out how to expand their production.

In the case of Tip Top, the company operated in Georgia. But the Delta deal required rapid expansion to be able to deliver the product on time by air.

“Very quickly we needed to gain distribution in several of their pickup markets,” he said.

But that challenge has turned into an opportunity. When production ramped up, Reisman said, it allowed Tip Top to expand its presence in markets where it had to negotiate new distribution deals. And it’s already an extension: Type Top will be offered on international flights starting this summer.

Another brand that is expanding through a deal with Delta is Kate’s Real Food, which was founded in Wyoming in 2011. The brand offers certified organic, gluten-free, and kosher snacks, and its dark chocolate, cherry, and almond bar has been on Delta planes for about three months. Lemon Coconut Bars will be available later this summer.

“It was a great opportunity to introduce our products,” said Sales Director Michael Richardson. “People come to…

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