The wine and spirits industry thus regains its position as France’s second largest surplus item on the country’s trade balance (€9.5 billion), after the aviation industry (€20 billion). A number of individual factors combined to produce the results in 2012. The first is healthy growth in wine sales which rose by 8.5 percent across the board and 10 percent for still wines; overall growth was slightly stunted by Champagne’s failure to contribute to value increases as it normally does (see below). Spirits sales were also booming with a 13 percent rise, boosted by Cognac. Although vodkas and liqueurs witnessed declining volume consignments, their value sales rose, confirming a trend towards premiumisation. The third and final positive aspect factoring into last year’s success was the weakening of the Euro compared with other major currencies such as the US dollar, the GBP and the Yen; obviously this made French products more competitive.
For FEVS chief Louis-Fabrice Latour, the figures threw up some encouraging news for French wine and spirits exports. They revealed that growth is structured more around value (+10 percent) than volume (+1.6 percent) and that emerging markets are increasingly contributing to growth. In 2012, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) accounted for €1.2 billion, equating to over 10 percent of total exports; when re-exports are taken in account, the figure rises to €1.5 billion. However, on the downside, French wines are constantly losing market share by volume: over the last decade, wine exports lost 10 percent in volume and grew by 30 percent in value, mainly due to Champagne and the top tier of Bordeaux wines.
Export gains are becoming increasingly pivotal in ensuring the French wine and spirits industry’s future: according to FEVS figures, 40 percent of the industry relies on opportunities provided by export markets. Gaining and securing access to non-EU countries is therefore a strategic challenge for many companies and, consequently, for the French economy as a whole. For Louis-Fabrice Latour, this implies that “support from public authorities is absolutely necessary to strengthen our export activities. State action is required to lift the various trade barriers that can affect our access to new markets”. However, the FEVS chair also urged the industry to take a proactive approach by ensuring its products were in line with consumer demand: “designing such products requires a new way of thinking for the industry, including joint management of the industry, both for wines and spirits… Ignoring the need to increase our market share in terms of volume may turn out to be counterproductive for the whole industry and impair our potential to create value…”