Year-on-year sales are up 10.7% in value and 14.6% in volume [Nielsen MAT 20 March], driven by promotions and an upswing in consumer confidence.
While the corks are not popping at 2008 levels just yet, and the average price per 75cl has fallen by 3.5%, retailers, market analysts and suppliers have hailed the sales uplift as evidence of a more optimistic consumer mood. Sales of other sparkling wines are up 11% by value and 5% by volume.
"Things are much more upbeat," said Oddbins MD Simon Baile. "We are starting to see people come in and ask for Dom Pérignon and Krug there's a much more positive mood."
Commercial manager for Champagne at Percy Fox and Justerini & Brooks, Colin Cameron, agreed: "Consumers are feeling a bit more positive about spending money, having gone through a tough recession, and a lot of growth has also come from promotional activity by retailers, particularly supermarkets," he said.
Value sales had risen to £334m nearly returning to 2008's £338m but a fall in prices meant they had not kept pace with volume growth, said Nielsen market analyst Stewart Blunt.
"The rise in volumes coincides with an increase in consumer confidence, although it is still being driven by promotions," he said.
It had been a "buyers' market", confirmed Lanson MD Paul Beavis. A lot of tertiary labels had entered the off trade over the past six months and promoted heavily, pushing down the average price, he said.
The introduction of some "extremely high standard" Champagnes into the market had made it far more accessible, according to wine controller for Spar, Laura Jewell.
Sales were also driven by consumer unwillingness to have a second "depressed" Christmas, along with a trend to buy in the off-trade rather than the on, according to buying director at Thierry's, Dominique Vrigneau. "Yes, there have been a lot of promotions, and yes, the price has gone down, but I think a lot of the activity in the supermarkets has been funded by them they have clearly been supporting the Champagne houses."
Of the top 10 Champagne brands, some have fared better than others, with category leader Möet & Chandon down 9.2% in value to £40m and 10.7% in volume, while Percy Fox brand Heidsieck Monopole is up 92% in value to £21m and 113.6% in volume.
"Some houses took one route in the recession and we took another," said Cameron. "We adapted our strategy with a combination of increasingly regular promotional deals and distribution."
Champagne's continued growth would depend on the election result and possible increases in VAT and duty, he said.
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