Cognac Exports: new markets on the horizon

17-06-2016
Logo France Bon appétit

Cognac exports have seen a resurgence in 2015 with a 5.9% increase in volume and 9.4% uplift in value. 

New areas of opportunity are coming into view, such as Africa and Oceania, alongside more traditional markets.

 Glass of cognac on the old wooden barrel

With some 98% of volumes exported to more than 160 countries, Cognac reaffirms its status as a major player of French wine and spirit exports. According to figures released from the Cognac Trade Body, (BNIC), total shipments account for some 164.7 million bottles, for a turnover of 2.4 billion euros. “This international recognition comes as a direct result of all the highly skilled negociants and growers responsible for its production in the region. Cognac is one of France’s oldest appellations. It can only be made in a clearly defined geographical area, where a sense of place – or the terroir – and also the conditions in which it is made, are clearly set out in a rigorous set of guidelines,” explains Catherine Lepage, President of the BNIC.

If Cognac is the world’s most widely distributed spirit, the fact it is tailored to its drinking audience is no mere coincidence.  Cognac aficionados can enjoy this versatile spirit in a number of ways, including on the rocks, as a long drink, as a cocktail, iced, as an aperitif, during a meal or as a digestive.

Cognac is a handcrafted spirit, an artisan product which results from a savoir-faire handed down through generations, symbolising tradition, consistent quality and excellence.”

Its inimitable taste makes it a real commercial success in export markets, and the epitome of French sophistication.

“Cognac is a symbol of French “art de vivre”, and very popular abroad. It has always travelled,” insists Catherine Lepage.

And admittedly Cognac, in the same way as a whole host of regional, or neighbouring wines, very quickly became established in certain countries when commerce began in the Middle Ages. The Anglo-Saxons, the Dutch and the Nordic countries were particularly keen. Over time, every single continent has discovered Cognac.  “Both in the past and present, exports have always driven our economy,” points out the President.

Cognac accounts for some 70% of French spirits exports. The combined force of Bordeaux, Champagne and Cognac together account for two thirds of all wine and spirits exports in France.  A firmly established tradition.

Cognac, accounting for 70 % of French spirits exports

Cognac has worldwide distribution and its recent record-breaking exports are largely due to sales in the US, linked to the fall in the euro versus the US dollar.  The significant contribution of the entire wine trade is also worthy of note North America has the greatest number of Cognac consumers, a zone covering the US, Canada and Mexico. It is the leading area both in volume and value, with 68 million bottles shipped in 2015.  The Far East and Europe follow, accounting for 51 million and 40 million bottles respectively.

In recent years, new areas of opportunity have continued to open, particularly in Africa and Oceania. Volumes in these relatively fledgling markets now represent more than 6% of total volumes,” adds Catherine Lepage.

Indeed, other than the South Africans, who already have a wine culture, other consumers are increasingly in search of prestigious products such as Cognac and Bordeaux. The developing middle classes and Business owners are largely to be thanked for this progression, notably in Ivory Coast, Angola, Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon.  If we were to draw up a list of countries ranked in order of importance, it would look something like this: the United States, Singapore, China, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Norway and Belgium.

And when it comes to the different ways to enjoy Cognac, consumers in Asia tend to prefer it with food, while in America it is an important cocktail component, and in France, an after-dinner drink. But aside from appreciating Cognac in all its versatility, it is a spirit that conveys certain values. “Cognac portrays an image of elegance, excellence, modernity and art de vivre, which resonates in all of us. These elements, allied with Cognac’s aromatic richness and tremendous versatility, make it truly possible to say – in the same way as perfume – that there is a Cognac for everyone…it’s just a matter of finding the right fragrance,” concludes Catherine Lepage.