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Qantas is moving into the gourmet deli business

Nick Haddow of Tasmania’s Bruny Island Cheese is among the boutique producers who’ve signed up for the Qantas program.

One of the most valuable parts of the Qantas business is its frequent flyers database, with around 11 million members.

In the midst of CEO Alan Joyce’s efforts to turnaround the loss-making airline, some analysts suggested Qantas could sell the frequent flyer side for up to $2.5 billion. But it continues to be a lucrative venture, with Qantas Loyalty delivering a $315 million in profit last financial year.

One side of the business Qantas is ramping up in 2016 is epiQure, its online food and wine club for QFF members.

While Qantas offers its wine club to all its frequent flyers, epiQure members score free delivery, special offers and invitations to food and wine events. The airline, which collaborates with Neil Perry’s Rockpool group, prides itself on that side of the business and is now turning itself into a boutique online deli to rival the likes of Jones the Grocer and Simon Johnson.

Former Fairfax executive Lisa Hudson, who has extensive experience in food and wine, was recruited to head the division in 2015 and this week she announced an expansion of the epiQure range, starting with 60 gourmet food producers.

The business is already on the rise, with wine sales having double in the past year, while the range has expanded 33%.

Hudson said epiQure was a perfect fit for the airline because food and wine was second only to travel in the interests of frequent flyers. She’s focused on produce from the wine regions already featured on the site, giving small, regional family-run producers national marketing they couldn’t otherwise afford.

Cheese, oils, olives, vinegars, smoked salmon, cured meats, honey and even truffles are among the initial offerings and Hudson said they are in discussion with around 100 more producers to get them on board.

“Launching a food component as part of Qantas epiQure is another way for us to celebrate excellence and the unique offerings of some of our Australian producers,” she said.

Next on the drawing board for epiQure is a free mobile app for Apple and Android, which Hudson says frequent flyers will also be able to use to shop inflight. It’s also being designed so epiQure members will be targeted for promotions when they’re in the lounge or at events via Apple’s iBeacon.

Frequent flyers can sign up for an epiQure membership for $99 or 13,000 Qantas points.

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