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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Giles Fallowfield

Marne & Champagne, the second-largest producer in Champagne, has announced that it is changing its name with immediate effect to Groupe Lanson International. The move follows the refinancing of the company's debt, agreed last July with French bank Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne (CNCE), which now owns 44% of the company's share capital, the controlling 56% remaining with the Mora family. The name change reflects the company's intention to concentrate more on its branded business, not just Lanson, but also Besserat de Bellefon, Mass and Gauthier, and less on Buyers Own Brands (BOBs), which have accounted for just under half the company's volume of some 19 million bottles in the recent past. The company aims to increase its branded sales to over two-thirds of its volume. In line with this policy, a new range of three Champagnes called B de Besserat de Bellefon has been launched in the French domestic market, alongside the more traditional Cuve des Moines Besserat de Bellefon range. The range is widely stocked by the French supermarket giants like Carrefour, Auchan, Geant, CORA and Intermarch, and will be rolled out to export markets such as Britain in 2005. This range, with its striking, colourful packaging designed to stand out on shelf, is aimed to appeal more to a younger target audience, says recently appointed group commercial and marketing director Isabelle le Fur. She expects domestic sales to reach around 270,000 bottles in 2004 for the two initial wines, a Brut and a Ros, priced at around e17. The third style, Cuve Sduction, to be introduced next month in France, will be a fully sweet doux style (sweeter than demi-sec), with a dosage of over 50 grams of sugar, as well as lime-green packaging. There are plans to bring this to the UK. Lanson Noble Cuve Ros will also be launched this year, giving Lanson three different prestige cuve styles. There have been further changes of personnel at Groupe Lanson International following the appointment of Isabelle le Fur in the autumn of 2004. Olivier de la Giraudire, former managing director of Champagne Delbeck, is the new export director for Europe and Africa, and a new general manager for the whole company will be announced shortly. In the UK office, sales and marketing director Paul Beavis will report directly to de la Giraudire. Peter Ferguson will not be replaced and the UK office will no longer be autonomous.