Brandy stalwarts start to open gaps in the lead

A year ago you could hardly separate the top three in the brandy category with a cigarette paper, but

now the gaps are slightly more defined.

It's one of the few spirits categories where Diageo and Pernod Ricard don't hold sway, the latter seeing Martell lose sales over the year as Courvoisier VS and Three Barrels start to pull away.

Courvoisier has been a success story for Beam Global in the UK


the top 10

also features the VSOP, which

was cross-marketed through free

miniatures with the parent brand around Father's Day.

First Drinks Brands also promoted premium styles of the non-Cognac French brandy Three Barrels in the run-up to last Christmas and added

more than 6% to its figures for the year.

Leading VSOP style Rémy Martin consolidated fourth position, but its volume growth exceeded its value increase at more than 18%, suggesting

price promotions played a part in its good fortunes.

As with many spirits categories, the reverse appears to be true for brandy overall, with a

3% rise in total sales coming off flat volumes.

Rémy supplier Maxxium

had the highest-profile launch

with its Coeur de Cognac, stripped of age statements and appellation marks to appeal to a younger audience, but unlikely to make an impression on the top 10 any time soon with a £25-a-bottle price tag.

Brandy in


Value: £263 million

(2007: £256 million)

Change: +3%

Volume: 171,000hl (2007: 170,000)

Change: +1%

Source: Nielsen year to Aug 9 2008

Top 10 brandy brands

1 Courvoisier VS +6%

2 Three Barrels +6%

3 Martell -2%

4 Rémy Martin +12%

5 Philippe Rochelle +2%

6 Prince Consort


7 Soberano -10%

8 Courvoisier VSOP +27%

9 E&J Gallo +19%

10 De Valcourt -28%

A diverse category

The entry of Gallo's Californian brandy into the top 10 list reinforces the fragmented nature of the category overall.

While Cognac and French variants dominate, the plethora of brands from Spain, Greece and other countries across the globe means the share held by the major players in the category is less significant than it is in other spirits categories.

The top 10 brandies have a combined off-trade market share of 44.2%, compared with 60% for gin, 61.6% for vodka and 63.4% for blended Scotch.

While the leading brands are all supported, the cash is less substantial and tends to go to promotions to encourage trial and educational support rather than big above-the-line campaigns.

Though the top three brandies are all in the top 15 spirits brands, none are in the top 10; sales of Courvoisier in 12th place are less than half those of Jack Daniel's in eighth.

It could take a significant injection of advertising cash to propel a brandy into the UK's spirits elite.