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Top Champagne Producers Eye U.S., Asia As European Sales Slide

June 3, 2014

The global Champagne category posted a lackluster overall performance in 2013, as a modest rise in the U.S. couldn’t offset declines across key European markets like France, the U.K. and Germany. The top 10 export Champagne brands managed an aggregate 1% gain worldwide last year, and the top seven Champagne shippers—accounting for nearly half of category volume—recorded a collective 0.7% volume increase. However, total global Champagne shipments slid 1.2% to approximately 25.4 million nine-liter cases and category value decreased 0.4% to €4.4 billion ($5.84b), according to Impact Databank.

“Markets outside Europe continue to grow by about 3% in volume,” says Etienne Auriau, CFO, Laurent-Perrier, the fourth-largest Champagne producer. “Markets in the European Union continue to decline by about 3% in volume linked to the economic recession of most European countries.”

“There is a growing interest for Champagne in markets outside Europe, specifically the U.S., Australia, Japan and Asia,” notes Cecile Bonnefond, CEO, Champagnes Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck. “The consumer mindset is focused on seeking out affordable luxury with an eye towards heritage and quality.”

Champagne posted slight gains in both shipment volume (+0.9% to 1.49 million cases) and value (+0.4% to €373 million/$495.4m) in the U.S. last year. Four of the market’s top five Champagne brands enjoyed volume increases, with Moët Hennessy USA’s top-ranked duo of Veuve Clicquot (+6.3% to 385,000 cases) and Moët & Chandon (-7% to 355,000 cases) headed in opposite directions. The two LVMH brands collectively control nearly 60% of U.S. Champagne depletions. Ranked third in the U.S., Pernod Ricard’s Perrier-Jouët inched up 0.6% to 71,000 cases. The brand has been revamping in the U.S. with activities including the launch of the Nuit Blanche reference, a sweeter style, in the premium on-premise.

Nicolas Feuillatte, the U.S. category’s fourth-ranked brand, handled by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, rose 11.7% to 67,000 cases. “We’re constantly working on renewing our offer, though we recognize the importance of keeping the safe values in our portfolio” for loyal consumers, says Feuillatte commercial director Julie Campos. “We’ve launched a new cuvée called D’Luscious exclusively in the U.S. initially, dedicated to customers who like to pair Champagne with spicy cuisine. We’re also still offering limited editions based on a yearly theme, this year X’ploration by Nicolas Feuillatte.”

Fifth-ranked Piper-Heidsieck was relatively flat (+0.1%) at 51,000 cases. Still, Bonnefond says “Excellent progress has been made—particularly in the key cities of New York, Miami and Los Angeles,” adding that Champagnes P&C Heidsieck SA has partnered with non-profit Rooftop Films in the U.S. and invested in a team of brand ambassadors in key cities around the world to introduce its upscale Champagnes.

One of the more notable U.S. trends has been the recent growth of rosé bubblies. More than 2.9 million bottles of rosé Champagne were shipped to the U.S. in 2013, comprising 16.2% of all shipments, compared to 6.4% of shipments in 2005, according to Sam Heitner, director, Champagne Bureau USA. “It’s the fastest growing segment of Champagne shipments to the U.S.,” Heitner observes.

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