Champagne market in UK ‘even more buoyant than expected’ during 2019

The market for Champagne in the UK during the past year was “even more buoyant than expected”, but now “it’s simply not appropriate to twist the cork”, according to chairman of the country’s Champagne Agents Association, Andrew Hawes.

Hawes, who is also MD of Mentzendorff – the importer for Bollinger and Ayala Champagnes in the UK – had recently spoken to db about a “booming” Champagne business in the UK, which, he had pointed out, was not being properly recorded.

This week, following the release of the official figures for year-end shipments of Champagne from the Comité Champagne in Epernay, he said that the sector’s performance in the UK was in fact even stronger than he had thought.

While Champagne shipments to the UK were up by only 0.8% in volume to 26,996,415 bottles, it was the value growth that was the most notable, with an increase of 6.2% to take the total to €431,289,284.

As a result, speaking to db yesterday, Hawes said, “My thoughts on the Champagne sales in the UK were based on our experience of the market and other anecdotal reads, but now the official statistics have come out, it is even more buoyant than I was anticipating on the value side.”

Furthermore, looking at the first two months of this year, Hawes said that the demand for Champagne was “following the same trajectory” of 2019, which was a growth in higher-value branded Champagne, including vintage-dated offerings, in particular prestige cuvées.

And while Hawes doesn’t see a rebound in Champagne volume sales in the UK to a peak of almost 40 million bottles (which was witnessed in 2007 as you can see from the figures at the bottom of this article), he does see a continued growth in the market when measured according to turnover, helped by a more diverse set of Champagnes sold in Britain.

“I see a healthy interest in the value side of Champagne, but also the diversity side,” he commented, adding, “While the numbers are moving forward due to established premium brands, there is also an underlying movement of grower terroir-based Champagne that is very evident in the on-trade and indies.”

While that was the “underlying trajectory”, according to Hawes, Champagne sales have of course been “hit” by the coronavirus crisis.

Hawes is hopeful that the previous path is one “we’ll return to in time”, but for now, “understandably, people don’t feel like opening bottles of Champagne.”

“This is something that occasionally we’ve seen in the depth of a financial crisis, and, while this is a health crisis, that applies just as much, if not more,” he said of consumers’ decision not to consume Champagne – which is, of course, a drink most closely connected with moments of celebration.

The UK total market for Champagne:

Shipments to the UK in 2019 (Comité Champagne): 27.0m bottles (+0.8%)
Shipments to the UK in 2018 (Comité Champagne): 26.8m bottles (-3.6%)
Shipments to the UK in 2017 (Comité Champagne): 27.8m bottles (-11%)
Shipments to the UK in 2016 (Comité Champagne): 31.2m bottles (-8.7%)
Shipments to the UK in 2015 (Comité Champagne): 34.2m bottles (+4.5%)
Shipments to the UK in 2014 (Comité Champagne): 32.7m bottles (+6.2%)
Shipments to the UK in 2013 (Comité Champagne): 30.8m bottles (-5.2%)
Shipments to the UK in 2012 (Comité Champagne): 32.5m bottles (-5.8%)
Shipments to the UK in 2011 (Comité Champagne): 34.5m bottles (-2.8%)
Shipments to the UK in 2010 (Comité Champagne): 35.5m bottles (+16.4%)
Shipments to the UK in 2009 (Comité Champagne): 30.5m bottles (-15.3%)
Shipments to the UK in 2008 (Comité Champagne): 36.0m bottles (-7.9%)
Shipments to the UK in 2007 (Comité Champagne): 39.1m bottles (+6.3%)

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