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Champagne Piper-Heidsieck embarks on ‘rebirth’

Champagne Piper-Heidsieck is embarking on a “rebirth” as it looks to rebuild sales and improve the brand’s image, according to new president of the house, Damien Lafaurie.

Piper-Heidsieck wants to grow volumes from 4.3m bottles to 5m over the next three years as it embarks on a ‘rebirth’

“We have ambitious plans for Piper,” said Lafaurie – who took over the presidency of Piper-Heidsieck, along with sister house Charles Heidsieck from Cécile Bonnefond last July.

During a discussion in Champagne with the drinks business at the start of this year, he explained how the house has distanced itself from price discounts in supermarkets that had come to characterise the brand towards the last months of 2010, when former owner Rémy Cointreau decided to sell both Piper and Charles Heidsieck.

Somewhat to the surprise of industry commentators at the time, the houses were bought by EPI – a holding company of Descours family, owner of upmarket French clothing labels such as Alain Figaret and Bonpoint – and the acquisition was completed in June 2011.

Since then, the houses have undergone a repositioning, led by Bonnefond, and more recently Lafaurie, who assured db that it was now time to grow volumes.

“The cleansing is done,” he said, adding, “we have got out of the discounting.”

Continuing he explained, “Now we are focused on increasing the perceived value of the brand: our wine credentials are outstanding, and we are extremely proud of our wines, but we are working on our image.

“So we are on step two of our strategic plan, and that is the rebirth: readjusting our image in line with our wine quality, because there was a disconnect in the past between the quality of the wine and the way it was perceived by the consumer,” he said.

When asked about the timescale for “step two”, Lafaurie said in January this year, “We have plenty of time, the next three years are critical for our new momentum… we want to be at least a five-million bottle brand, we are not aiming for big volumes but we feel that 5m bottles would be a good place.”

According to db figures, Piper-Heidsieck sold 4.3m bottles in 2014, making it the ninth biggest Champagne brand in the world.

Lafaurie said that priority markets for growing Piper were the US, Australia, Japan, France, Belgium and the UK.

Speaking of the latter market specifically, he said, “The UK is still a large market for Piper even though we lost a lot of volume there – on purpose.”

Lafaurie became president of Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck in June last year. He had previously worked at the brand’s former owner, Rémy Cointreau, where he had been executive vice resident, global markets since 2009, although he joined the company in 2002 as vice president, operations.

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