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Two Years After Sale, Piper-Heidsieck Retrenches With Value Strategy

July 11, 2013

Acquired from Rémy Cointreau for nearly $600 million in July 2011, French luxury group EPI’s Champagnes Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck are in the process of reintroducing themselves with a focus on generating value through premiumization. A key part of P&C Heidsieck’s new strategy is an emphasis on the U.S. market, which is now its top global priority, according to Cecile Bonnefond, president of the Champagne group.

Speaking to Shanken News Daily at Vinexpo in recent weeks, Bonnefond, who led Champagne Veuve Clicquot for nine years before taking the helm at Piper- and Charles Heidsieck, said EPI is investing strongly in the U.S. The push includes a new team of six 100%-dedicated personnel within Rémy Cointreau USA—the French drinks group continues to distribute its former Champagnes around much of the globe—as well as a fresh marketing campaign and special packagings for Piper slated for later this year. Meanwhile, Charles Heidsieck—a boutique brand limited to the on-premise and specialty stores—has been revamped with a new bottle and new wine, with its blend now including 40% reserve wines averaging 10 years in age.

Globally, Champagnes P&C Heidsieck’s shipments have fallen by more than half since 2007, slipping 20% to 440,000 nine-liter cases in 2012. In the U.S., Piper remains among the top five Champagnes by volume—up 2% to 51,000 cases last year according to Impact Databank—but despite some recent progress is well below its high-water mark of 82,000 cases in 2007.

Bonnefond says the group will continue to favor value growth over volume looking ahead. “We made a decision to pull out of some of the big chains in the U.S. and reestablish our luxury credentials,” she says, noting that Piper is now devoting more attention to the on-premise and upscale-oriented retailers like Sherry-Lehmann. “Now we’re seeing double-digit digit growth, and we’re growing the right way—not through price promotion.”

Part of the premiumization plan for Piper-Heidsieck involves generating more interest in vintage Champagnes. “Consumers are moving into vintages as we begin to make more noise about them,” Bonnefond says. Toward that end, Piper will launch a special twin pack of its 1996 and 2006 vintages with two Baccarat glasses in a red lacquer box that will retail for around €500 ($643).

While P&C Heidsieck is touting its vintage bubblies in an effort to move upmarket, its core Brut offerings on both labels have enjoyed critical accolades of late. Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve ($65) and Piper-Heidsieck Brut ($50) each recently received scores of 93 points from Wine Spectator, and the latter ranked number-84 among the magazine’s Top 100 Wines of 2012.

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