Tim Palmer Pernod Ricard's plans to breathe life into its brand leading cognac, Martell, will face stiff competition from Allied Domecq. Joint managing director Richard Burrows this week said the company was determined to make the former Seagram spirit one of its top priorities, but he admitted that turning the brand around would not happen overnight. Globally, the brand's volumes declined by 7% last year. Even in its key UK market, where sales grew 1.1%, it was still way behind the cognac market as a whole, which grew by 5.8%. Its 38.8% share of the cognac sector declined 4.4% in the 12 months to the end of Feb [ACNielsen]. Burrows said the brand's performance suffered because of the length of time it took Diageo and Pernod Ricard to get clearance to take over Seagram. The statistics also indicate that Allied Domecq has taken advantage of the lack of focus to increase Courvoisier's market share in the UK. Figures from ACNielsen show sales of Courvoisier grew by 9.9% over the same period and that it now has a 36.8% share of the market. Allied Domecq's brand director Stephanie Rutherford said: "Courvoisier continues to grow volume, value and market share in the off-trade and we are confident we are on target to become the number one cognac in the UK. We haven't seen any changes in Martell's strategy to suggest this outcome will change. "However, we are concerned about a switch from brand building to high levels of discounting which compromises the long-term prospects of category." Burrows said: "Martell is a strong brand in the UK and it has performed well, but we were surprised by the amount of over stocking we found when we took over the brand. The trade surplus in the UK was the most serious of its key markets." {{DRINKS }}