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Top Imported Sparkler Freixenet Leads Way As Cava Looks To Leverage Prosecco Surge

November 11, 2014

While the performance of the cava category has been upstaged in the U.S. market of late by fast-rising rival Prosecco, it too is enjoying a lift owing to U.S. consumers’ increasing taste for sparkling wines. Overall, cava exports to the U.S. increased 3.6% to 17 million bottles (1.4 million cases) in 2013, according to the Cava Regulatory Council.

Leading cava brand Freixenet, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its first bottling this year, is looking to generate more excitement for the category up the pricing ladder this fall with a new luxury offering, Casa Sala Grand Reserva Brut, a 2006 vintage cava that retails at $60 a 750-ml. bottle.

Currently rolling out along the East Coast, cava’s U.S. stronghold, Casa Sala is a Brut Nature cava that takes its name from the Sala side of Freixenet’s founding Sala Ferrer family. The new wine’s packaging references the company’s heritage. Its label replicates that of the first Freixenet Brut Nature cava and its corks are capped with images family members of special importance to the legacy of the house. About 20,000 bottles of Casa Sala are being produced annually.

Freixenet’s U.S. depletions fell 4% to 522,000 cases last year, as consumers continued to flood into the Prosecco segment. Still, the brand remains the top imported sparkling wine label in the U.S. market, just ahead of Bacardi USA’s Martini, and Freixenet USA president Tom Burnet tells SND it has returned to growth this year. Another cava brand, CIV USA’s Jaume Serra Cristalino, priced a few dollars below Freixenet’s roughly $11 a bottle, also ranks among the top three, rising 12% to 435,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank. Globally, Freixenet comprises about 80% of all cava exports, which amounted to 160 million bottles last year. Exports account for around two-thirds of global cava category volume.

Eva Bertran, Freixenet USA’s executive vice president, says that while both Prosecco and cava compete in the imported sparkling segment, the Italian bubbly’s current popularity can also open doors for its Spanish counterpart. “Consumers are now drinking sparkling wines more regularly, not only for celebratory occasions. And they’re starting to explore different styles and higher price points,” she notes. Burnet cautions that Prosecco’s influence can cut both ways, however, warning that if the feeding frenzy in the Prosecco category leads to fierce price competition—as has happened with other imported wine categories like Australian Shiraz and Argentine Malbec—cava’s own premiumization efforts could suffer.


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