Cognac star performer in French spirits exports

15th February, 2019 by Nicola Carruthers

French spirits exports rose 1.8% to €4.4 billion (US$4.9bn) in 2018, but Cognac was the only category to record both value and volume growth.

Cognac helped to boost French spirits exports

Combined data shows that French wine and spirits exports broke the €13 billion barrier for the first time last year, up 2.4% to €13.2bn (US$14.8bn), according to the Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins & Spiritueux de France (FEVS).

The volume of French wine and spirits fell by 2.7% due to the “very weak 2017 harvest on wine exports”. Spirits volumes increased to more than 53 million cases, a growth of +1.9%.

Looking across spirits, Cognac grew by 3.4% to 16.7m cases and increased by 1.7% in value to €3.1bn. Armagnac fell by 6.4% in volume and 6.5% by value.

Vodka decreased by 0.4% to 12.2m cases and increased by 17.8% in value. Liqueurs increased by 2.4% to 3.98m cases and decreased by 5.2% in value.

Calvados fell by 10.7% to 261,768 cases and dropped by 8.3% in value. Other wine-based spirits decreased by 2.9% to 9.6m cases and increased by 17.8% in value.

Following its rebound last year, French wine volumes fell by 4.6% “in line with the historically low harvest of 2017”. The value of wine exports increased by 2.6% to €8.9bn.

‘Importance of third countries’

In the European Union, French wine and spirits generated a turnover of €4.5bn (+2.2%). The increase confirms “the growing importance of third countries in the growth of French wine and spirits”, the FEVS said.

Non-EU countries contributed almost 70% of the increase in turnover last year, with a growth rate of 2.6%.

The US – the leading market for French wine and spirits – maintained “steady” growth with exports up by 4.6% to €3.2bn.

Exports to China fell by double digits to €1bn (-14.4%) amid “slowing economic growth and international trade tensions”.

Antoine Leccia, president of FEVS, said: “The Chinese market is largely supplied via Hong Kong and Singapore, which does not reflect the export figures.

“In 2018, with €2.5 billion, we record our second best year for French wines and spirits exported to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, confirming the long-term dynamics of the Chinese market.”

However, the rest of Asia was said to be “growing strongly”, with sales up by 4.7% to close to €1bn in 2018.

Despite Brexit uncertainties, exports to the UK “stabilised” at €1.3bn (-0.6%).

“We are confident in the ability of our products to meet the demands and expectations of consumers,” said Leccia. “But the current climate of uncertainty makes us particularly vigilant because of our growing presence in the third country markets.

“We rely on the support and the action of the public authorities to support our companies facing the current and future challenges.”

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