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Interview: Moët Hennessy’s Rodney Williams Talks Champagne

June 7, 2016

Champagne, often considered a leading indicator of the health of the overall wine market, has shown strong growth in the U.S. lately, with volume up 5% to 1.38 million cases and per-case value leaping 20% to $334 last year, according to Impact Databank. Moët Hennessy USA’s Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon combine for 835,000 cases annually, accounting for more than 60% of the total U.S. Champagne category, and both brands showed solid progress in 2015, as Veuve Clicquot climbed 9% and Moët & Chandon grew 4%. SND senior editor Daniel Marsteller recently caught up with Moët Hennessy USA CMO and EVP, brands, Rodney Williams to get an update on conditions in the bubbly segment.

SND: How is the overall climate for Champagne in the U.S. so far this year?

Williams: The consumer is developing a great appetite for bubbles. The growth of Prosecco and other sparkling wines is opening people up to elevating to Champagne. We know that consumers—and especially Millennials—really appreciate authenticity. That gives us an opportunity to tell our brand stories, and it’s consistent with the trend toward premiumization. Consumers are willing to pay a little more if the quality is really there.

SND: What factors are driving growth for Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon?

Williams: On Moët & Chandon, we have a newer expression called Moët Ice, which is a Champagne developed specifically to be consumed on ice. It’s ideal for outdoor spring and summer venues, and it’s flying. Moët & Chandon’s rosé is growing rapidly as well. And Veuve Clicquot has great momentum. With Veuve Clicquot, we’ve been creating immersive experiences for consumers, such as polo events in New York and Los Angeles—which sell out in a matter of minutes—and a new experience around Carnivale in Miami. These are ways for consumers to experience the whole gestalt of the brand.

SND: Where do you see more opportunities for expansion?

Williams: Americans are recognizing that Champagne can be enjoyed beyond celebratory moments. One thing we’re advocating is enjoying Champagne in wine glasses instead of flutes, which signals that it’s more appropriate for everyday consumption. For Veuve Clicquot, we just launched a new campaign with three lifestyle spots that we hope connote sophistication and style and the idea that Champagne in general—and Veuve Clicquot in particular—has a role to play in everyday life.

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