An increase in consumption of soft drinks, and in particular bottled water, led to a fall in French spirit sales last two years, albeit at a lower rate of decline than that for wine or beer. But there is little chance of the slide in sales continuing for long, with plenty of dynamism in numerous segments of the spirit market, according to market analysts Canadean.
A new report shows that while spirit sales in 2002 dropped to 162,000 cases last year, a revival is expected in 2003, driven by such diverse products as whisky, liqueurs and vodka.
Whisky is the second largest category overall, but despite its size, it continues to grow, the report shows. Standard Scotch whisky is the dominant segment with around 67 per cent, and its growth, combined with the growing importance of deluxe Scotch, malt whisky and Irish whiskey, has helped drive the category forward. Deluxe Scotch delivered double digit growth largely as a result of sales of the leading brand growing by an outstanding 16 per cent, Canadean noted.
In what proved to be a difficult year, liqueurs, cocktails and specialities did well to grow by just under 3 per cent, with much of this growth attributable to the sparkling performance of secondary products as leading segments showing relatively modest fluctuations. Sales of exotic, mint and orange flavoured products rose by 14, 9 and 4 per cent respectively.
Clear and flavoured vodka have helped the category become the fastest growing in France, although vodka is still a relatively small category. Sales of fourth-placed rum and cane spirits continue to be invigorated by extremely popular white rum, which has benefited from a growing preference for white spirits to lift sales by just over 20 per cent since 1998. Despite the popularity of white spirits, traditional French favourites Armagnac and Cognac still helped fuel a healthy 6 per cent increase in brandy sales during 2002.
But other archetypal French drinks have not fared so well. Sales of anis/pastis and bitters have slumped over the last few years, suffering from ageing customer bases and an old-fashioned image compared to more dynamic competitors. Perhaps brighter, fresher images are required in order to attract a new generation of younger and female consumers, Canadean suggests.
The spirits market is likely to come under further pressure from the continued development of sectors such as soft drinks, the report concludes, with stricter enforcement of drink-drive controls also likely to have an effect. However, most categories offer the potential for expansion, and a new product launches should help drive up sales this year by around 0.5 per cent.
For details of how to order your copy of Canadean's Spirits Watch - France report, click here.