Camus Aims To Compete With Big Cognac Players In U.S.July 27, 2012
Long overshadowed by larger rivals, Camus, the world’s fifth-largest Cognac brand, has intensified its efforts in recent years with an eye toward a larger U.S. presence. At the same time, Camus continues to capitalize on surging demand for Cognac in Asian markets, notably China and Vietnam. President and sole shareholder Cyril Camus says progress on both fronts has been swift, with the company doubling global volume to over 400,000 cases and tripling turnover to €150 million ($185m) over the past two years.
“We’ve definitely changed dimensions in the last two years,” Camus tells Shanken News Daily. “We’ve moved from being the largest of the small Cognac players to being the smallest of the large players. Two years ago we had around 180 employees around the world. By the end of this year we’ll have over 500.”
The U.S., traditionally a low priority for Camus because of its strength in duty free and Asian channels, is now taking an increasing portion of its investment. The group launched its own U.S. import unit in 2010 and will have 15 people on the ground in the States by year-end. Camus says the brand’s U.S. volume is more than doubling year-on-year from a small base of around 10,000 cases.
“The U.S. is now going quickly for us,” he says. “Historically it hasn’t been a very good match for our portfolio profile, which is focused toward the high end. But the U.S. is now moving more in that direction, so the opportunity is there.”
A key part of Camus’ strategy is to unify its U.S. portfolio with its range around the world. Several new products are now rolling out to help achieve that goal. Camus says its Ile de Ré series, which is launching in the U.S. today at the Tales of the Cocktail festival in New Orleans, is a unique proposition. It’s sourced from the eponymous island that’s part of the Cognac appellation and spans a wide taste profile across its three variants, Fine Island ($49 a 750-ml.), Double Matured ($69) and Cliffside Cellar ($99).
Higher up the ladder, Camus also recently debuted its prestige Extra Elegance Cognac—a blend of Borderies, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne eaux-de-vie—in the U.S. in both 750-ml. ($395) and 1.75-liter ($1,000) sizes. Several ultra-prestige vintage-blend Cognacs are also forthcoming, with limited production of roughly 900-3,000 bottles each and price points around $4,000, intended to compete with labels like Rémy Martin Louis XIII and Richard Hennessy.
Despite its tilt toward the ultra-premium arena, Camus says it won’t ignore Cognac’s more accessible price levels. It markets both a VS ($30) and VSOP ($44) in the U.S. in addition to its XO-and-above offerings. “The temptation is to hold stocks to sell more profitably at the high end and in more profitable markets like China,” Camus says. “A lot of players are pulling back from more mature markets for that reason. We’re going against that to some extent, making sure we devote stock to all quality levels. The higher-end offers more profit, but VS and VSOP can create wide exposure for the brand.”Tagged : Cognac