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Champagne: Trade Talk

WE ASKED: “What is driving the growth of the prestige Champagne category?”

“Champagne is aspirational, and there is an ever-growing number of image-conscious consumers who are buying products that support their feel-good lifestyle. They want the real thing – and prestige Champagne does that. Combined with all that is greater consumer understanding of Champagne, and the resulting growth in the category, both on- and off-trade. At the POP Bar, we’ve seen strong and growing sales of Pommery’s Cuvée Louise, and there is every reason to see that trend continuing, both here and in other high-end establishments where Cuvée Louise is listed. Anticipating the requirement for superpremium Champagnes more than three years ago, Vranken Pommery Monopole recently launched the Cuvée Diamant range, with Blanc, Rosé and the prestige Cuvée Diamant Bleu.”
Colin Cameron, marketing manager, Percy Fox & Co

“Consumers are increasingly looking for a truly memorable experience. Through sponsorship of prestigious events such as the Cowdray Gold Cup, Veuve Clicquot has driven the brand’s aspirational associations. This is reinforced by the development of premium channels in which to experience the wine – for example, for La Grande Dame we developed a programme targeting top-end spa hotels, with staff training supported by a by-the-glass programme. Limited-edition innovations, such as the La Grande Dame and Pucci launch, have created a wow factor and driven coverage in target press titles, which has helped to reinforce brand desirability. We are confident that this trend will continue.”
Sally Warmington, brand director, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin

“The growth in the prestige category is driven by affluence within the target market and aspirational consumer groups, and further boosted by supply pressures on some leading brands. There’s nothing like a shortage, whether genuine or perceived, to stimulate demand. We are about to inject further spice to the category by competing more vigorously with the Sir Winston Churchill Cuvée, which we feel has been under-exposed in the sector. The stunning latest release, 1996, comes in a new package, completing the redesign of the Pol Roger range, which we initiated in 2002.”

Bill Gunn MW, managing director, Pol Roger Limited

“What is fuelling the growth in prestige Champagne sales is a surplus of spending cash, coupled with curiosity and man’s undeniable right to want to be seen living large. People who have the money to spend are going to try these mythic cuvées; some for the first time, others on a regular basis.  Given the prices of other iconic wines (first-growth Bordeaux, garage heroes, grand cru Burgundy and Super Tuscans) prestige cuvées are not that expensive. As long as the demand for luxury goods remains, sales of prestige cuvées should grow. But if the consumer is a veritable wine lover and is let down by what he finds in the bottle, things could go the other way. This is the underlying reason why all prestige cuvées should be of the utmost quality, whether they are household names or as-yet-unknown expressions of a house’s expertise in blending. Remember all the pseudo luxury cuvées produced for the millennium? I don’t.”
Terence Kenny, director export, Champagne Pannier

“The growth in the case of Belle Époque has largely come from the on-trade. This has been driven partly by greater distribution of our Champagnes and by changes in the on- trade itself. Traditionally, prestige cuvées were mainly sold in London five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. The dynamic growth in exclusive private members bars and clubs has shifted the status quo.
  I feel confident that prestige cuvées sales will continue to grow (economy permitting) as more and more high-quality venues open up in the UK. Regional hotels, which in the past were a fairly small market, have now become a significant source of business. This is largely due to the new appeal of these hotels and the type of customer they attract. They offer high-quality wine lists with great visibility for prestige cuvées.

  The restrictions on growth in the current market are driven mainly by oenological constraints, with prestige cuvées spending at least five years on the lees. Competition is also very fierce for the high-quality grapes needed. Gradual and sustainable growth is the best model.”
Ed Penny, senior brand manager, Perrier-Jouët

“I think growth of our prestige Champagne portfolio is largely a result of two factors. Firstly, more and more consumers are looking to heighten the experience of their nights out. Trading up to aspirational quality brands is one way of doing this. Secondly, our brands are establishing a stronger emotional connection with consumers. This is being achieved through creative advertising, such as the latest Dom Pérignon campaign by Karl Lagerfeld, but also through exciting product and packaging innovation, such as La Grande Dame and Pucci, Krug and Connolly, and Dom Pérignon and Lagerfeld limited-edition bottles. I think that the trend of quality over quantity will continue, as consumers become more affluent and better educated about responsible drinking.”
David Cunningham, marketing director, Moët Hennessy UK

“Although our Cuvée Grande Sendrée remains rather discreet in the UK compared to other major export markets, the trend is definitely good. For a Champagne aficionado, enjoying a cuvée de prestige makes the moment really special. At the moment where Non Vintage Champagne flows over the British Isles, a rare and special bottle becomes a treat, la crème de la crème or, more precisely, le Champagne du Champagne.”
Michel Drappier, managing director, Drappier Champagne

“Increased demand from the on-trade is fuelling the market for prestige cuvées. A glass of Champagne is now a common “anytime” drink, so every restaurant and bar has Champagne on offer. This means that top-end establishments have to find a point of difference, and the prestige cuvées can offer this. Increased demand from the on-premise sector means that Champagne houses are introducing more prestige cuvées so there is also more choice. The other thing to remember is that the new markets in Eastern Europe and Asia are looking for top-end products. Consumers are not looking at the price, they just want a premium product. Because Champagne is breaking out of its special-occasion pigeon hole, the same phenomenon is taking place in the off-trade, but to a lesser degree.”
Patrick Spanti, export director, Champagne Jacquart

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