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UK Champagne sales flow down the drain

Published:  21 March, 2017

UK Champagne sales have been hit by the nation's love of more affordable Prosecco alongside the Brexit-caused drop in the value of the pound.

While the UK is still the tipple's biggest export market, value sales tumbled 14% to £381m in 2016 on volume sales down 8.7% to 31.2 million bottles, according to new data released by the Comité Champagne (CIVC).

The poor performance was caused by the "sudden depreciation" of Sterling following the Brexit vote in June last year - it fell to its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985, said the CIVC, adding the lackluster performance also reflected a reduction in sales of discounted, own label Champagne through the multiples.

The latter illustrated that "aggressive discounting tactics" were no longer effective to attract customers and boost the volume of Champagne sales, said the CIVC.

British shoppers were increasingly trading up when Champagne shopping, said the CIVC - a trend that would please the champenois who it said had long sought to "resist the lure of sales volume, with the risk that this poses for Champagne's global market position".

"Positive value is forever the defining objective for Champagne - volume is nice but, for the good of Champagne, it must always take second place," said Champagne Bureau director Françoise Peretti, adding Champagne was always meant to be "at the pinnacle".

"It seems that UK customers are no longer seduced by the cut-price propositions but their appetite for premium-priced Champagnes is plainly growing with rosé and prestige cuvées gathering momentum."

Since 2010, Rosé Champagne have risen by 25% in value on volumes up 17% in the UK, while volume sales of prestige cuvées have surged 80% in value on a bubbling 88% hike in volume sales during the same period.

Britain's love affair with more affordable bubbles, such as Prosecco, is also continues to give Champagne a headache.

Sales of sparkling wine, excluding champagne, sold in the UK peaked at more than 45 million bottles for the first time in the 12 weeks to 31 December, 2016.

The CIVC findings also revealed the US market lead the world in export value, though significantly fewer bottles were sold than in the UK.