Nicolas Feuillatte reveals results of €25m investment

Following a €25 million investment and two years of building work, Nicolas Feuillatte officially opened its new offices and visitor centre in Champagne on Friday.

Nicolas Feuillatte’s new visitor centre.

The unveiling of the facilities involved a party for press and trade customers where dancers performed in the air, suspended from transparent balloons designed to looked like giant bubbles.

Guests were treated to range of Champagnes from the Nicolas Feuillatte stable, including the brand’s flagship Palm d’Or from magnum and jeroboam, while the evening ended with a magnificent fireworks display.

Speaking at the event, Christophe Juarez, who last month was appointed MD of the The Centre Vinicole Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte (CV-CNF) – the cooperative that owns the marque – said that the new facilities were a physical statement of the brand’s ambition to be a major force in Champagne.

While, speaking exclusively to the drinks business ahead of the celebration, he said that wanted to see Nicolas Feuillatte grow significantly.

The brand currently sells 10.4 million bottles annually, but Juarez said, “For Nicolas Feuillatte the sky is the limit.”

When asked how he would supply such growth, he said that the cooperative produces around 16-18m bottles in total annually, and with 10-11m of those currently used to make the Nicolas Feuillatte brand, he stated, “We have flexibility”.

Nevertheless, he admitted that it was “challenging” persuading growers in Champagne to supply the cooperative, despite the fact that that such grape suppliers receive extensive technical support from the group.

Affecting growers’ decision to sell their grapes to the CV-CNF is both demand from other houses and the lure for growers to bottle their own Champagne.

“There is a lot of pressure from the négociants and then there is the issue of independent growers trying to sell their Champagne, although this is a route to market that has been declining for a long time,” he said, referring to the shrinking market for grower-Champagnes, which are mostly sold domestically.

Nicolas Feuillatte’s growth suffered a 4% decline in terms of volume in 2016, a trend that can be attributed to a decline in Champagne demand in the UK, which is the brand’s second largest market after the US.

The view from the recently refurbished visitor centre to the new headquarters for Nicolas Feuillatte

A reduction in the depth of price promotional activity on Nicolas Feuillatte, particularly in the nation’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco, is one reason thought to be a cause of declining volume sales.

Admitting that the brand needed to make changes to head back into growth, Juarez said, “We do definitely need to take a new step forward in terms of brand awareness and image-building. We have done a lot of things already, and we are planning a lot of initiatives in the years to come.”

Thankfully he observed a high level of attachment to Nicolas Feuillatte among its current customers.

“One of the key points about Nicolas Feuillatte is that we have significant brand loyalty so we have to increase the base of customers to ensure that we increase sales; the core business is loyal to the brand – no other Champagne has this anchor,” he recorded.

When asked whether Nicolas Feuillatte would accept supermarket deals in the future to boost its volumes, Juarez made it clear that the brand would not lower its average selling price.

“We want to add value,” he stated, noting that more generally, Champagne was facing a future of price rises.

“We will probably never come again into a scenario of decreasing pricing, and if you see the statistics, it is the entry price point segment that is declining strongly because of the Prosecco and Cava effect which is taking a lot of these customers,” he said.

“The entry point is no longer relevant for Champagne,” he concluded.

Nicolas Feuillatte is the best selling Champagne brand in France and the third biggest marque globally behind Moët et Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, which are both owned by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.

Although LVMH don’t release official volume sales figures for their drinks brands, it is believed that Moët et Chandon sells around 35m bottles annually, and Veuve Clicquot approximately 18m.

One Response to “Nicolas Feuillatte reveals results of €25m investment”

  1. Jiles Halling says:

    I can understand that Mr. Juarez would want to encourage vignerons to sell their grapes to NF but his remarks about the ‘shrinking market for grower champagnes’ is interesting. If one looks at the CIVC shipment data one sees that it is indeed true that shipments of Vignerons champagnes declined in 2014 – 2016 but so did shipments of Coop champagnes. Is therefore the market for Coop champagne also shrinking? On this basis one would have to say Yes. On a share of shipment basis, the share of Coop champagnes declined (albeit very slightly) whilst the share of the Vignerons was stable in 2016 versus 2015.
    If one looks more closely one sees that what Mr. Juarez says about most Vignerons champagnes being sold in France, is indeed true , but that’s also the case for Coop champagnes. In fact Vignerons’ shipments to the rest of the world are growing in volume and in market share whilst the opposite is true for Coop champagnes – they lost volume and market share in 2016 versus 2015.
    Perhaps the outlook for the Vignerons champagnes is not as bleak as Mr. Juarez makes out.

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