French artisan lemonade is “top of the pops” in export markets04-07-2016
Fizzy drinks continue to export well to foreign shores given their authentic appeal, original approach and targeted prestige distribution.
There are around 30 different lemonade brands in France, of which two are seeing remarkable results in export markets.
Lorina, lemonade of worldwide renown
Since its take-over in 1996, the Geyer Frères company and lemonade brand Lorina have seen remarkable growth. The Geyer lemonade business, founded at the end of the 19th century in Moselle, eastern France, did not take long to work out that the recipe that had proved such a hit on the domestic market would not necessarily tick all the boxes in the US. From this point forwards, the lemonade sold on the other side of the Atlantic would be systematically coloured and flavoured, which explains the success of the pink grape-based fizz on this market.
From the 600,000 bottles sold every year before the take-over, production has shifted to its current rate of 35 million. Turnover has progressed from 150,000 euros in 1995 to more than 45m euros in recent years. Lorina’s head office, a small workshop with only 2 full-time workers back in the day, has been transformed into a sleek industrial outfit, with 80 workers in France and some 10 in the US.
Today the brand is distributed in 42 countries, including Canada, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Australia, Singapore, Morocco and Greece, in more than 20,000 retail outlets, covering supermarkets, fast food outlets such as Starbucks, hotels and delicatessens. Exports account for half its turnover, essentially to the US.
Elixia, the lemonade in vogue in Dubai
Elixia is the story of one family and one man: Hugo Sublet, who represents the 6th generation. In 2002, he relaunched the family saga cut short in 1991. He created a new company, Imagram, based on the same 19th century product, and using the same ingredients – water, sugar and natural flavourings – and the same traditional production equipment. The lemonade production site based in Champagnole in the Jura since 1856 is the oldest in France.
This refreshing summer drink, selling a million bottles, has seen tradition and innovation prove a winning formula in 30 countries.
“Over the years our innovative approach has led to a range of flavoured classic lemonades with wild strawberries or blueberries. Then we were even more creative by making wines with lemonade,” explains Hugo Sablet, the man at the helm of Elixia. In 2010, the brand rose to the fore when it launched a lemonade with 24 carat gold flakes for an importer in Dubai. “It was from this moment that the brand really established a name for itself.”
The success of Elixia is arguably down to two factors: on the one hand an unwavering respect for traditional artisan craftsmanship that has not changed since it all began. Natural fruit and plant extracts and mountain spring water are enough to differentiate the product from its more mainstream competitors. At the same time, the company has taken a gamble with innovation in order to capitalise on the different trends specific to each market. The company initially expanded its range with new flavours such as Mirabelle plum and blueberry. It resurrected long forgotten drinks such as “rouge limé” or “blanc limé”, wine and lemonade-based cocktails, then launched more original concoctions such as lemonade with chocolate, cola or vanilla, not forgetting the super premium range and an organic lemonade made with agave syrup. The company’s inventiveness has been recognised at the Sial innovations awards on numerous occasions.
An export success: a success on all shores
In 2015, exports accounted for 50% of total sales. From 2016, this figure is expected to rise to 70%. And while the initial markets to get a taste for the product were essentially in Europe, from 2009 business was also booming in Asia, notably in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, with North America and the Middle East also coming on board.
“New customers are slightly wary as they don’t fully understand what we are all about. In many countries, fizzy drinks are mass-market products. With Elixia, they discover a range of artisan lemonades, which are 100% natural and made with quality ingredients – in essence a premium drink with sleek packaging”. From Dubai to Uruguay, luxury hotel groups are joining a long list of supermarkets and delicatessens. “This year our key market is the US, which is a huge market. We launched last year, at the same time as China,” added Elixia CEO Hugo Sablet.
With a distinctly high-end appeal on export markets from the outset, the flavoured lemonades capitalise on a global trend for French foods. “Our clients want to know everything about the product: where’s it from? How’s it made? And by who?” Interestingly, the signature red, white and blue “Manufactured in France” flag only made a recent appearance on bottles, which is the type of branding that is likely to attract new customers. The recent “artisan qualité” quality award from the College Culinaire de France, an association promoting the values of gastronomy, and presented by France’s top ten elite chefs, is a new accolade that will stand them in good stead for the next few years.