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Champagne exports to UK plummet by 5.1%

Published:  14 April, 2014

The UK remains Champagne's biggest export market, despite imports falling to €447.2 million last year, a decline of 5.1% by volume and 3.8% by value.

Although the Champagne Bureau bills the decline as "unsurprising" and Britons' "normal late reaction to economic downturn", the overall sparkling wine category is still growing. Prosecco in particular is enjoying a boom. Recent figures from the Italian Sparkling Wine Observatory (OVSE) showed sales of 307 million bottles last year while Champagne sold 304 million bottles globally.

The UK is Champagne's largest export market, 72% ahead of nearest rival the United States. Of the 136.6 million bottles exported, 30.8 million were shipped to Britain.

UK Champagne Bureau director Francoise Peretti said: "The UK Champagne market is typically procyclical, with a pronounced tendency to late reaction. It is not unusual to see the consequences of an economic downturn maybe one or two years after the event.

"The UK has been Champagne's number one export market for the past 18 years, and that is not about to change."

The sparkling category, including Champagne, is booming with global sales up by 6 million bottles in the past five years.

But Tim Wilson of the Wilson Drinks Report said: "It's all about Prosecco at the moment. Whatever channel you look at Prosecco is growing very strongly and Champagne is slipping back."

He questioned whether 2014 would see a return to growth for Champagne in the UK as GDP is rising. The two are closely linked, Wilson said. "In the meantime Prosecco is really capturing the imagination of British consumers and it's a tough job for Champagne to get that market share back."

He added that were English sparkling wine able to produce a wine between £10 to £12, "that would also take the market by storm" and further threaten Champagne.

But Paul Beavis, chairman of the Champagne Agents' Association, said there are new opportunities in the on-trade: "Champagne is the aspirational first choice in this market, and [...] new-generation restaurants are the perfect venues to discover it.'

Elsewhere in the world, Champagne shipments to Japan are up by 6.7%; Belgium up by 14.% and Australian sales have grown by 11.4%.