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French spirits exports drop 13% in 2023

Exports of French spirits declined by double digits in both volume and value last year due to destocking by wholesalers in the US.

French spirit Cognac
Cognac’s global export volumes plummeted by 21.1% to €13.9 billion (US$14.9bn) last year

Global sales of French spirits fell by 12% to €4.8 billion (US$5.1bn) in 2023, while volumes dropped by 13% to 48.4 million nine-litre cases, data from trade body the Fédération des Exportateurs de Vins & Spiritueux (Fevs) revealed.

Total French wine and spirits exports were worth €16.2bn (US$17.3bn) in 2023, a decline of 5.9% on 2022, when the sector reached a ‘record high’. Volumes also fell by 10.4% to 174.5m cases.

French wine fared slightly better than spirits but still dipped by 4% to €11.3bn (US$12.1bn) in value. The sector was down by 9.4% in volume to 122.6m cases.

Fevs president Gabriel Picard said 2023 was hit by high inflation and lower consumption levels, alongside a drop in disposable incomes.

In June, the trade body revealed that exports of French spirits fell by 20% in the first quarter of 2023 because of increasing inflation.

In the US – the sector’s biggest market – exports of French wines and spirits slumped by 22% to €3.6bn (US$3.9bn) last year, with spirits plummeting by 37%. Fevs said the US decline for wine and spirits was due to stock build-ups during the pandemic as wholesalers lowered their inventories.

Picard added: “The reduction of overstocks in some markets – notably in the US – has resulted in a decrease of wine and spirits exports in volume.”

Exports of wine and spirits to the UK dipped by 1% to €1.7bn (US$1.8bn), with spirits growing by 2% in value and dropping by 1% in volume. Sales of sparkling and still wines declined by 5% in volume.

Fevs highlighted a similar trend in Asia, with total wine and spirits exports up by 1% to €4bn (US$4.3bn).

Japan reported a 4% decline and South Korea and Taiwan remained stable, Fevs noted.

China bucked the trend with a 3% rise for spirits, led by Cognac, while wines fell by 20% in value.

The Chinese government recently launched an anti-dumping inquiry into all brandy and Cognac imported from the EU.

Fevs also noticed a ‘booming demand’ for French wine and spirits in emerging markets such as Malaysia (up by 20%) and the Philippines (up by 74%).

Cognac and vodka plummet

All spirits segments were in decline last year by both volume and value.

The biggest drops were seen for Cognac (down by 21.1% in volume and by 14.8% in value) and vodka, which fell by 21.4% in volume and by 10.9% in value.

Liqueurs also saw volumes plunge by 17.5% (down by 8% in value), while Armagnac suffered a greater value decrease (down by 18.6%) than its volume (down by 9.8%).

Vermouths, on the other hand, rose by 3.5% in value but dropped by 5.4% in volume.

“This decline is a wake‐up call for exporting companies,” Picard warned. “It reminds us of the continued need to adapt to changing consumer and market demands.

“It also demonstrates how much the sustainability of the export success of wines and spirits requires strong and long‐lasting support from the public authorities: new markets must be opened, and others must also be prevented from closing, in particular through trade retaliatory measures.”

New data revealed that spirits sales in the US were also relatively flat in both volume and value terms in 2023.

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