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Top 5 biggest brandy and Cognac brands

While somewhat steadying the sinking ship that was brought on by an over-reliance on the Asian market, global brandy and Cognac brands still have plenty to improve upon.

Cognac brands bitten by the Asian tiger are increasingly looking West for salvation (Photo: Wiki)

Being a shorter list than our other category roundups reflects the reluctance of some of the world’s most famous Cognac and brandy labels to reveal their potentially distressing and un-PR-friendly sales figures. You won’t see the likes of Hennessy, Hine or Camus mentioned here, for instance.

However, of those that are mentioned, the 9-litre case sales figures (covering the calendar year 2014) show a mixture of some brands that are still struggling and those that are in better positions to benefit from an improving global scene.

The defining trend for Cognac and brandy producers at the minute is location, location, location. Take, for example, seemingly insurmountable local brands like McDowell’s and Honey Bee in India, not included in this list because they are not distributed internationally. These brands, under the ownership of Diageo subsidiary United Spirits, are the product of years of cultural embedment. Products like these are made, bought, consumed and loved in their home country, resulting in comparatively huge (albeit slowly declining) sales figures of 10.2 million and 3.8 million cases respectively in 2014.

Compare these to the global brands that tacked on to the roaring Asian tiger a few years ago. Producing increasingly luxurious and extremely high-priced bottlings not necessarily designed to be consumed but to be gifted in China as symbols of status and wealth, a cynic who is more inclined to support organic brand-building may well have cracked a smirk when the Asian adventure went awry.

Thankfully for these international brands, though, a lesson appears to have been learned. All signs are pointing towards an improvement in the market as the global players increase the pace at which they shift away from single-market reliance and back to steadily performing regions whose changes in taste should work in their favour, if given the right level of investment.

The North American market in particular, which is already Cognac’s number one market, is being touted as its salvation after years of being ostracised at the expense of Eastern endeavours. Here, volumes in 2014 rose by 12.2% with a 7.9% rise in value, according to the Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac. A growing taste for brown spirits is working wonders here, and producers are right to look West once again.

Click through to discover our top selling international brandy/Cognac brands…

5. Courvoisier

Courvoisier VS, complete with its new packaging

Cases sold in 2014: 1.4 million

Cases sold in 2014: 1.4 million

Percentage change: 0%

Owner: Beam Suntory

Courvoisier’s recent activity has been an attempt to bring it all back home, with a “Parisian-inspired” redesign of its entire range matched by an upturn in marketing activity from owners Beam Suntory. Starting with the brand’s 700ml and one-litre bottles of VS, VSOP and XO which will be rolled out in September, the rest of the Courvoisier collection will be made available with the new look from the beginning of 2016. Such a makeover should only work in the brand’s favour, as it has (very) steadily increased its volume sales by around 200,000 since 2010, plateauing for the past three years. Maybe this is the boost the brand needs to work its way further up the table?

4. Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy

Paul Masson Grande Amber

Cases sold in 2014: 1.6 million

Cases sold in 2014: 1.3 million

Percentage change: 19%

Owner: Constellation Brands

The US-based Paul Masson brandy is perfectly placed to benefit from the aforementioned growth in American potential for brandy and Cognac, especially for those brands willing to innovate. Paul Masson’s recent foray into the flavoured spirit sector with its Grande Amber Peach bottling has in-turn boosted sales of its classic VS and VSOP expressions, helping to account for an impressive 19% growth in 2014 after several years of flatlining sales. Like most American brandies that are seeing a resurgence in interest lately, Paul Masson’s brand is untainted by headline-grabbing, ultra-premium expressions or accusations of publicity-hunting pours.

3. Rémy Martin

Rémy Martin Black Pearl Louis XIII

Cases sold in 2014: 1.7 million

Cases sold in 2014: 1.8 million

Percentage change: -6%

Owner: Rémy Cointreau

Rémy Cointreau produces some of the world’s most expensive Cognacs under the Rémy Martin label, but these have been performing poorly in recent years as the company has been arguably the chief culprit in joining the overhyped party in China before the country’s clampdown in extravagant spending. However, while volumes of Rémy Martin declined by 6% in 2014, it is due for more positivity as the company is successfully shifting its focus to what is now its largest market for Cognac, the US, which had record growth in 2014. Rémy Cointreau now aims to increase its marketing spend to push its premium brands, including Rémy Martin, in markets like North America, and position them as the main drivers of growth for the company by 2019.

2. Martell

Martell Noblige

Cases sold in 2014: 1.9 million

Cases sold in 2014: 1.9 million

Percentage change: 0%

Owner: Pernod Ricard

Martell, despite being the oldest of the major Cognac houses, has been trying its best to attract new consumers to the category lately by using various extensions targeting different markets, such as its Cordon Bleu for Travel Retail and the Paris Style limited edition VSOP for Russian consumers. Martell Distinction, launched in China in 2013, sought to counteract the austerity measures that have seriously affected the Cognac market in the region, and it has partly been successful in this endeavour, meaning it is able to still command a good place in our list with steady sales.

1. Dreher

Dreher, complete with Brazilian labelling

Cases sold in 2014: 3.4 million

Cases sold in 2014: 3.3 million

Percentage change: 3%

Owner: Gruppo Campari

Finally, the biggest-selling brandy brand with global distribution in our list is one that, funnily enough, is rarely sought, bought or consumed beyond its key market, Brazil. Highlighting the point I made in my introduction, the importance in the brandy/Cognac category of inspiring a deep-seated attachment to a brand in a particular market is all-important – especially given the association of tradition and prestige attached to the spirit. It has meant that since 2010, sales of Dreher have remained at a steady and at a comparatively high level compared to its competitors, hovering between 3.3m and 3.5m cases. Dreher originates in 1910 in the Southern region of Bento Gonçalves, an area most associated with wine production in Brazil. Acquired in 1973 by Heublein and later on in 1998 by UDV Brazil, Dreher became part of Gruppo Campari’s portfolio in 2001, and has since taken firm control of the Brazilian brandy market.

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