The impressive drop in champagne consumption by the French

The famous French sparkling wine, whose average price on shelves has increased by more than 10% in one year, is suffering from the consumption decisions of French people with tight budgets.

An emblem of the French art of living, omnipresent on festive tables, champagne enjoys a reputation that is well established. However, it undoubtedly suffers from the inflationary context and the tightened French budget. As the head of the strategic committee of the E.Leclerc centers Michel-Édouard Leclerc raised on BFMTV on Sunday, “champagne sells less well. (…) Sparkling Italian wines, crémants, have taken the place“.

An observation that is not limited to E.Leclerc stores. “Champagne sales fell sharply over the last year», observes Emily Mayer, consumer expert at Circana. The panelist, as well as his NielsenIQ counterpart, report a collapse of around 20% in sales (by volume) of champagne in supermarkets in 2023 compared to last year.

With inflation which has continued to erode household budgets for two years – the rise in food prices reaching 18% between January 2022 and August 2023 according to NielsenIQ – it must be said that consumers are tightening their belts. And limit their spending to essential products. Of which champagne, and alcohol in general, are not part. “Alcohols are decreasing in volume this year, because they are not spared from consumer arbitrage. And within alcohols, champagnes are a very expensive and festive drink, so they suffer even more», explains Yannis Chemlal, senior retail consultant at NielsenIQ.

Report on prosecco and crémant

The rise in champagne prices is not unrelated to this decline. “The champagne went crazy, it burst the bubbles,” pictured Michel-Édouard Leclerc on BFMTV on Sunday. Its average shelf price increased between 10% and 12% in one year, depending on whether we use the calculations of Circana or NielsenIQ. So, today it costs 23 euros on average for a classic 75 cl bottle. However, “inflation has affected champagnes relatively less than other consumer products», notes Yannis Chemlal.

As a result, consumers are increasingly turning to sparkling wines (prosecco, crémant), “five times cheaper per liter and whose price increase is more moderate over the last year», Notes Emily Mayer, from Circana, noting an average price of around 6 euros for these alternatives to champagne. Especially, proseccoItalian sparkling white wine, is “ultra-dynamic since it arrived in France, also benefiting from its use as an aperitif with the Spritz», particularly popular among those under 50, observes Yannis Chemlal. Its sales jumped by 9% on shelves this year according to NielsenIQ (4% for crémants).

Store shortages

As for the champagne sector, we are trying to put this decline in sales into perspective. On the shipping stage, that is to say champagne releases, if the volumes “are down compared to 2022, of around 5%» (around 305 million bottles compared to 324 million in 2022), David Chatillon, president of the Union of Champagne Houses (UMC), explains it among other things by “record 2022 levels“. He also calls into question the “overstock» accumulated by distributors in 2022, for fear of shortages. “It must subside before distributors order again», Estimates the professional, also co-president of the Champagne Committee.

According to the panelists, another factor may have played a role in the drop in champagne sales, this time in supermarkets: that of restricted supplies, the result of poorer harvests. “Since the start of the year, there have been 9% stock shortages in stores for champagnes, compared to an average of less than 5% for consumer goods and self-service fresh products (PGC-FLS)», describes Yannis Chemlal. “Quotas have been put in place for French mass distribution, with certain players favoring export“, says Emily Mayer.

False, replies David Chatillon, “those who say this misunderstand how Champagne works“. “We have had a reserve system in place for a very long time. In surplus years, we put wines in reserve (which cannot be sold). In deficit years, these wines are taken out of the reserve to reach the marketable yield which is decided by the profession», Explains the head of the professional champagne organization. In any case, the little French bubbles should fill the flutes less at Christmas this year.

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