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Cava Steadily Expanding In U.S. Market, With Freixenet Leading The Way

June 23, 2015

While Prosecco has emerged as the key driver of sparkling wine consumption, Cava has been quietly expanding its footprint in the U.S. wine market. Overall, the Spanish sparkler grew by 4.6% in 2014 to 1.8 million cases, according to Impact Databank.

In 2013, leading Cava brand Freixenet lost ground, although it still became the market’s top imported sparkling wine by volume, passing Martini & Rossi. Last year Freixenet rebounded, rising 4.1% to 543,000 cases. “We’re seeing increased demand for sparklers,” says Freixenet USA president Tom Burnet, noting the Millennial generation’s eagerness to learn about the category. “Consumers are smarter than ever, but it’s also harder than ever to sustain brand loyalty.”

Freixenet also has been moving upscale to sustain momentum. Last fall, in honor of the 100th anniversary of its first bottling, the company launched Casa Sala Gran Reserva Brut, a 2006 vintage Cava retailing at $60 a 750-ml. With limited allocation and distribution—about 20,000 bottles produced annually and geared toward high-end accounts—Burnet emphasizes that Casa Sala is meant to showcase Cava’s quality.

In the summer of 2014, Freixenet USA also launched its Mia line, which features still and sparkling Spanish wines including a sparkling Moscato. And in 2013 came the launch of its Freixenet Sweet Cuvée. The company has also been targeting LDA Millennials with a refocused effort on marketing its 187-ml. bottles.

CIV USA is the second-largest Cava marketer, led by its Jaume Serra Cristalino, the U.S. market’s number-four imported sparkling wine brand at 425,000 cases. While Cristalino slipped slightly in 2014—declining by 10,000 cases—the company also sees Millennials as presenting an opportunity to expand the Cava segment. “The category is now more wide open,” says CIV USA president Vince Friend, highlighting the transition from traditional Baby Boomer wine values. “Millennials have created an openness in the market, like what you see in craft beer. In that spirit, sparkling wines are now being enjoyed throughout a meal—before, during, after.”

Like other sparkling suppliers, Friend sees the opportunity to take Cava upmarket as a natural evolution, reflective of general wine industry trends as well as the improving economy. CIV USA will be introducing a premium-priced extension of Jaume Cristalino this summer on a limited basis, with a larger rollout to follow in September/October. That offering will retail at $12-$15 a 750-ml., and Friend tells SND that more premium-level Spanish sparklers are in the pipeline.

Third-ranked Cava player Grupo Codorníu has fallen precipitously over the years. In 1990 its namesake brand stood at around 200,000 cases in the U.S., but in recent years it has hovered around 20,000 cases.

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