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Interview: Michelle DeFeo, President, Laurent-Perrier U.S.

June 11, 2021

With a strong performance over the past two years, Laurent-Perrier has vaulted into the ranks of the top four Champagne brands in the U.S. by volume, behind only Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon, and Nicolas Feuillatte. Posting 8% growth to 41,000 cases in 2020, according to Impact Databank, Laurent-Perrier was one of only three Champagne brands among the top 15 in the U.S. to increase its volume last year amid the unprecedented market conditions. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller spoke with Michelle DeFeo, president of import subsidiary Laurent-Perrier U.S., to get an update on progress so far in 2021.

SND: Champagne was clearly disrupted by the pandemic last year. How is the category responding so far in 2021?

DeFeo: French Champagne overall is doing extremely well. The on-premise is absolutely roaring back with the positive trend accelerating every month. But the off-premise is also very strong. In Nielsen channels from the end of January through the end of April, French Champagne is up 60% by volume and Rosé Champagne is up 66%. I’m very pleased to say that we’re tracking at about double both of those trends at Laurent-Perrier. Category shipments overall last year were down 18.8% to the U.S. according to the CIVC, but the off-premise was up. So it was really the closure of the on-premise that created the decline in business. Now we’re seeing excellent trends in both on- and off-premise, and we’re poised for a very strong 2021. One of the most challenging things that Champagne importers will need to manage this year is logistics, making sure we have enough stock to satisfy the strong demand.

SND: What’s driving growth for Laurent-Perrier specifically?

DeFeo: Last year we worked closely with each individual account to figure out what they needed and what we could do for them. We also had faith and ordered enough stock and never ran out, as some competitors did. There’s definitely growth in our 187-ml. and our splits, which we only make for our Brut NV and our Demi-Sec, but our 750s are outperforming those. We laid the groundwork in the years prior to the pandemic, investing in a significant advertising and marketing campaign and realigning our distribution network. We cut back on spending last year amid the pandemic, but we’re going to be restarting our advertising and marketing programs because we now have more money to invest. We have a campaign including print, digital, and a strong social media element that will be hitting in September.

SND: What’s the focus of the upcoming campaign?

DeFeo: It focuses on our authenticity and Frenchness, because in the U.S. there are many consumers who became interested in Champagne this past year—seeking out new bubbly wines—but don’t necessarily know that Champagne only comes from France. We’ll be promoting the fact that Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé is the quintessentially French pink Champagne, and we’ll be bringing the campaign to life in the retail environment, and within account activation both on- and off-premise. We’ve got good tailwinds to help us continue our growth in luxury rosé, and it’s about positioning ourselves in consumers’ minds as the leader of that category.

SND: What are you seeing at the prestige cuvée level with Grand Siècle?

DeFeo: Grand Siècle has always been a blend of three very special and rare vintages, and in 2019 we began revealing what those specific vintages are for each bottling and numbering each edition. Since then it has skyrocketed. This year we’re seeing double-digit and even triple-digit growth in some markets over the last several months. The top end is coming back, with consumers indulging in luxuries like prestige cuvées.

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