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Transforming brandy for the modern era

Hervé Buzon explains how St-Rémy is hoping to bring a younger generation of brandy drinkers into the fold with its new release

Hervé Buzon St-Rémy

What is the state of the global brandy industry today? What are its greatest strengths and challenges? 

The last full year the IWSR data is available is 2019. This showed a clear trend for premiumisation with -1.2 per cent in volume but +3.4 per cent in value compared with 2018. This performance was totally in line with longer term trends with -1.3 per cent in volume and +4 per cent in value on a five-year CAGR. The growth is driven by brandies priced over US$15, representing 5 per cent of the volumes but 20 per cent of the value. In 2019 this segment was at +7.4 per cent in value - twice that of the brandy category as a whole.

These figures show the transformation we can observe in the brandy category in mature markets such as Canada, USA, and Australia: higher-priced brandies, better quality, better transparency about the way they are made. Before the Covid-19 pandemic we could also observe a renewed interest from on-trade for brandy. 

In 2020, despite Covid-19, brandy seems to have demonstrated very good performances in key markets: USA and Canada should land between +5 per cent and +10 per cent. There are very positive trends as well in UK and Australia / New Zealand. Of course, this performance in big domestic markets will be offset by the decline in global travel retail.

In conclusion, the category has started to transform and gain attractiveness, particularly in North America and Australia, and the Covid-19 pandemic seems not to have frozen this trend. However, this transformation is still a work in progress and has not started in many markets yet. 

Where is St-Rémy currently positioned in the global brandy market, in terms of consumer popularity and reach? How would it like that position to change, if at all? 

St-Rémy is historically the number one French brandy with a value market share of 17.2 per cent in 2019. In markets where the brand has significant market share, our image is very good, approachable, and friendly.

St-Rémy is clearly positioned as an authentic French brandy and our liquid quality is recognised by the consumer. Our objective is to play our role of leader. It means contributing to the rejuvenation of the category image, recruiting new drinkers, particularly a younger audience, and better connecting with bartenders.  

In addition, as the leading French brandy, we believe we have a strong role to play in terms of education by explaining the differences between brandy and Cognac. These two categories are part of a common 'grape spirits' family, they are not in opposition but totally complementary in terms of clients' needs and price points. 

St-Rémy Signature claims to be targeting a 'new generation' of brandy drinkers – how has this affected the production of the brandy? How will it affect the marketing?

Cécile Roudaut, our master blender, wanted a brandy that was easy to understand for non-brandy drinkers: it is not a VSOP, nor a XO, nor a Napoléon! The production is easy to understand: it is based on a double maturation between virgin oak casks and traditional brandy casks.

The result is a very smooth brandy, with vanilla notes, very easy to taste for clients who want to discover brandy. Not only this, St-Rémy Signature is very versatile and has a perfect profile for cocktails. 

In terms of marketing, we will remain true to our values (authenticity, simplicity, loyalty) but add modernity and of course a strong drop of cocktails. We want bartenders to endorse this new fantastic liquid. 

What does the 'new generation' of brandy drinkers want from its spirits, and how does that compare to what the 'old generatio' wants? 

The "new generation" are customers who don't know brandy for the moment and may have a poor image of the category. They want true and clear liquid stories, presented in bottles designed with simplicity. We believe that for older and traditional brandy drinkers, codes are more important such as the wording VSOP/XO and bottle designs that are delivering more statutory cues.

30 April 2021