Pop a cork and let the bubbly flow, because the good times continued in 2017 for the Champagne and sparkling wine.
Last year this category grew by 5.8% in the U.S. to reach 23.472 million 9-liter cases. That makes 15 consecutive years in which the category has grown. And it follows a similarly stellar year in 2016, when the category was up around 6.6% for 22.188 million cases.
Overall, Champagne and sparkling accounted for 6.8% of all American wine consumption in 2017. That may seem small, but it’s actually the second highest after the behemoth category of table wine, which accounted for 90.5% of U.S. wine consumption.
Breaking it down into subcategories, sales of domestic sparklers rose 3.7% to 12.39 million total cases. That’s up from 11.95 million cases in 2016, which itself represented 5.2% growth. Imported bubbly, including Champagne, performed even better, with an 8.2% increase in 2017 for 11.082 million cases. In 2016, imported wines from this category were up 8.4% for 10.238 million cases.
Trends Drive Sales
The rosé boom remained in full force last year. The light sweet pink wine grew at an accelerated pace.
When measured in dollars, rosé sales increased around 50% in 2017, according to Nielsen tracking data, which outpaced the rest of the wine category overall.
There’s no end in sight for this movement. While rosé sales will continue to spike around the warmer months, the style has also found a following among drinkers year-round. And that means more sales. Especially because consumers have shown a willingness to trade up with rosé, opening their wallets for premium bottles.
Though lower price points have also helped drive growth in this category. “The sparkling wine category is demonstrating significant growth across multiple price points, in both value and volume,” says Gary Heck, president and owner of Korbel California Champagne, in a Cheers magazine article.
Meanwhile, Prosecco accounts for 20% of U.S. sparkling wine sales, according to Nielsen, with sales rising 21.1% in the last year. The Italian sparkler has a long history of success in America thanks in part to its country of origin: U.S. consumers love all things Italian cuisine. It’s also become the go-to wine for wine-based cocktails, especially popular among Millennials.
One of the advantages that Prosecco enjoys over Champagne is that consumers do not necessarily feel like they have to wait for a cause of celebration to pop open a bottle. Prosecco, typically less expensive than Champagne, is more of an every-day wine in the mind of many consumers. And it’s lighter and sweeter.
Though attitudes are also changing towards Champagne.
“As a whole, Champagne consumption is becoming deformalized and de-seasonalized, as consumers are finding ways to celebrate more often and all year long,” Renaud Butel, vice president of Champagne House Moët and Chandon, told Cheers. With new packaging offerings like Moët Minis Six Pack, Champagne is more viable as an everyday drinker for common occasions like picnics and backyard barbecues, Butel adds.
In fact, Champagne sales were up 5.9% in volume in the U.S. in 2017, according to data released by the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne. That’s in line with recent annual growth experienced by the category in America, and makes for five straight years that Champagne’s case volume has increased in the U.S.
“And, it’s not a big percentage but there is definitely a market for $50-plus Champagnes,” reports Tim Fowler, general manager at Shaker Beverage Shoppe in Harrison, Ark. As the economy continues to put the Great Recession in the rearview mirror, and workers (Millennials especially) see their salaries rise, more consumers are willing to splurge on that special bottle of bubbly.
The result of all these positive trends has been growth for many brands.
On the imported side, leading brand La Marca Prosecco, from E & J Gallo, was up 24.9% to 1.28 million cases. This comes after the brand grew 24.2% in 2016.
Mionetto was another big gainer in 2017, with a +13.1% performance to reach 690,000 cases.
The line of sparklers from Castello del Poggio, a Zonin USA brand, was up 27.6% in 2017 for 523,000 cases. Other notable growth performances among the top-10 selling domestic sparklers included Veuve Clicquot/La Grande Dame (+8.3% for 524,000 cases) and Moet & Chandon (+7.1% for 439,000 cases). Both brands are from Moet Hennessy USA.
The lone decline in the top 10 was Martini & Rossi Asti. The Bacardi brand was down 17.6% in 2016 to settle at 504,000 cases. Curiously, this follows a +14.8% performance in 2016.
Outside of the top ten, Ruffino Prosecco, from Constellation Brands, grew an impressive 21.9% for 368,000 cases. Strawberry Sparkletini, launched in 2014 by Carriage House Imports, continued its meteoric ascent up the sales charts with 53.3% growth for 115,000 cases. In 2016, this brand increased 316.7%.
Domestically, Andre/Wycliff, from E & J Gallo Winery, led the way with 3.21 million cases and 5.2% growth. Cook’s, from Constellation Brands, was one slot behind with 2.05 million cases and +1.2%. The third-best selling domestic brand, Brown Forman’s Korbel, slipped 1.5% to settle at 1.473 million cases. Korbel’s slight decline comes after a 9.8% growth in 2016.
E & J Gallo’s Barefoot Bubbly finished fourth with 1.27 million cases, good for a 6% increase over 2016. One spot behind was J. Roget, from Constellation, which grew 8.7% for 1 million cases.
Overall the Champagne and sparkling wine category should remain in great shape moving forward. Recent shifts in consumer attitudes and preferences have lifted these wines to year-round status — a new development that seems here to stay, and ready to drive more growth.
Reporting from Cheers writer Thomas Henry Strenk was used in this piece.
Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Cheers magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece Why Treasury Wine Estates Invested in AR Technology.
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Author: Kyle Swartz