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France’s wine market is showing signs of value growth amid the long-term decline in consumption volumes

The French wine market is often seen from two angles: first, as one of the main wine-producing countries in the world and second, as a market experiencing steadily declining wine consumption. Wine consumption volume is declining on average by 2% annually. Nevertheless, in 2016, 38 million wine drinkers in France consumed the equivalent of just over 3.1bn bottles – an average of 61 litres per head: some markets could only dream of such figures.

 

Despite this decline, our recent France Landscapes report shows a wine market increasingly populated with consumers who aren’t afraid to embrace change and seek diversity, which in turn creates potential for added-value product and brand opportunities. In an attempt to build knowledge and a more diverse repertoire, more adventurous consumers are returning to wine merchants, the only purchase channel to experience significant penetration growth in usage since 2014. Today, 41% of wine drinkers in France say they buy wine in wine merchants (“Cavistes”), compared to just over a third of wine drinkers 3 years ago.

 

Online, we are also seeing similar behaviour: a desire to go straight to the source of expertise and knowledge. 14.5 million wine consumers have already purchased wine on the internet and 26% of wine drinkers (and who use the internet) have purchased directly from a wine producer’s website, while a further 35% may not have done so, but are open to the idea.

And when it comes to researching wine online and the use of social media as a source of wine information, wine merchant websites come out on top – 26% of wine drinkers in France who use digital sources for information turn to wine merchants’ websites or sites specialised in online wine selling (the top 3 of which are Nicolas, Vinatis and Cavavin).

 

In terms of what wine drinkers in France are consuming, rosé, out of all still light wine types, has remained stable over the past three years. In the case of sparkling wine, unsurprisingly Champagne is top of the list, yet here too, wine drinkers are branching out. In the period 2012-16, imported sparkling wine increased by 21% a year, comprised mainly of sparkling wines of Italian and Spanish origin. (Source: IWSR 2017)

Regions of origin continue to play an influential role, more so than brands. This is reflected in the choice cues of wine drinkers in France: 31% of wine drinkers classed region of origin as ‘very important’ whereas only 19% did so for ‘a brand I am aware of.’ In particular, whilst the most well-known regions remain top in terms of awareness, a number of other, less familiar regions such as Tavel, Anjou and Val de Loire have shown growth, albeit from small bases. Again an indication that the repertoire of French wine consumers is developing.

The majority of wine consumption in France takes place in the off-trade, sitting at 70% in terms of volume and here too there are opportunities Not only are wine drinkers drinking more frequently, but they are more willing to upgrade in terms of spend than they were in 2014. Spend per bottle has increased across a variety of occasions in the off-trade, and 33% of wine drinkers in France state they now spend 10€ or more on a bottle of wine to enjoy with a meal with friends or family.

What emerges therefore is the idea that the ‘traditional’ picture of the French wine market as being classic, historic and sticking to its roots, although is generally the case, is certainly not the whole truth. Opportunities are there for those who wish to take advantage of a consumer base that is increasingly seeking to branch out and gain expertise.

For more information about the French wine market, take a look at our latest report, France Landscapes 2017. 

Author: Eleanor Hickey

Email: Eleanor@wineintelligence.com