The on-trade has a crucial role to play in helping to reverse declining sales of champagne in the UK, according to Vincent Perrin, CEO of the Comité Champagne.
Latest figures for 2016 show that UK sales across the off- and on-trade dropped 14% in value to £381m, with volume down 8.7% to 31.2 million bottles.
Speaking exclusively to Imbibe at yesterday’s Official #Champagne Experience Day, Perrin blamed the decline on exchange rates and the sudden depreciation of sterling, as well as reduced demand for discounted own-label champagne, as consumers turn to cut-price alternatives such as prosecco. He also cited Brexit as a concern.
‘When you have an economic shock you have to wait to see where the figures will land,’ he explained. ‘To assess the final structural effect, we’ll need to wait for another two years.’
While own-label champagne sales have fallen, other categories are showing growth. ‘There’s been a rise in rosé and prestige cuvees,’ said Perrin, ‘and this resilience is linked with our value strategy.’
He highlighted the role of the on-trade in promoting the value image of champagne, in order to keep it ‘at the top of the pyramid’ in the sparkling wine category.
‘There’s no sign of consumers moving away from champagne in the on-trade – quite the contrary,’ said Perrin. ‘We now need to focus on both traditional white tablecloth venues and new on-trade channels, as well as listening to millennials. The celebration moment is just as relevant to millennials – and we want them to celebrate important events with champagne,’ he added.
He highlighted food pairing and education as target areas for the on-trade. ‘We’ve been working on champagne and food pairing for years. Sommeliers are key for that,’ said Perrin. ‘We also need three tiers of education for sommeliers: our Champagne Campus gives the first knowledge, the second tier is tasting and more advanced education, and at the top tier we need to develop a network of on-trade champagne ambassadors.’