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Bollinger bucks Champagne sales drop

Bollinger has bucked a downward trend in Champagne sales worldwide, with the house achieving a 20% volume growth in the first quarter of this year according to CEO Jérôme Philippon.

Speaking at a press lunch in London yesterday, Philippon recorded a drop in global Champagne shipments of 5% so far this year, which followed a decline of 4.4% in 2012 – meaning, as previously reported by the drinks business, almost 14.2 million fewer bottles were shipped last year.

In contrast, Philippon stated that Bollinger had achieved a new sales record in the first semester of 2013, following its best ever year in 2012.

He ascribed this divergent performance to a polarisation of the market, with established high quality brands performing well at the upper end of the price scale, along with some growth at the cheapest end, while the middle-market declines.

“Cheap Champagne is doing well on volume, but not on profit,” he stated, adding, “and the middle ground is suffering.”

Meanwhile, he said, “Bollinger keeps growing… and our sales are exceptional in the UK” – the brand’s largest export market.

Explaining the causes of Bollinger growth worldwide he stressed three “key elements” to the brand’s recent sales performance.

These included its tie-up with the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, which he said, “has been instrumental in making Bollinger far more visible”, as well the introduction of the new Bollinger bottle, which was unveiled in May 2012, which he said, “has further differentiated Bollinger from the competition”.

The third factor, he continued, is the addition of a non-vintage rosé to the Bollinger range. Although admitting that Bollinger were “very late in the game”, having introduced its NV rosé in 2008, he said the new wine was “a very significant contribution to the growth of Bollinger.”

Speaking to the drinks business during the lunch, Andrew Hawes, who is managing director of Bollinger’s UK importer Mentzendorff, said he believed Bollinger was performing well in the UK market because the brand was perceived as offering a high level of quality for the price.

“There’s now a feeling among consumers in the UK that you get what you pay for.

“The idea of value has been recalibrated – it is no longer just a pseudonym for cheap – and Bollinger Special Cuvée is seen as great value.”

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