New figures show Champagne was down 9.1% in value and 9.6% in volume this Christmas (Nielsen, eight weeks to 29/12/12, compared to 2011).
It capped a poor year in which sales continued to dwindle.
But Victoria Olivier, brand manager at Piper-Heidsieck is convinced Champagne will soon see a resurgence – provided suppliers innovate and retailers help drive value.
She said: “People who have worked in Champagne a long while say it’s cyclical. Champagne follows recession.
“When we get out of this recession sales will pick up.”
In the meantime, she emphasised the need to educate consumers on the merits of Champagne.
Sparkling wine sales continue to flourish, driven by growth in Prosecco and Cava, and Olivier welcomes this trend.
“People will then hopefully trade up to Champagne.
“Consumers just need to be educated. Prosecco doesn’t have any true brands. Consumers can’t often name one. But with Champagne, Piper has been around for almost 230 years.
“It is our job to build on that brand equity and educate consumers on why Champagne is more expensive.”
Champagne prices were slashed by retailers in the build-up to Christmas, with many going below the £10 mark.
Olivier said: “Champagne is very strong so it doesn’t help to have Aldi selling Champagne at £9.99.
“We recommend what price to sell our products and retailers do use Champagne, just like they use other products, to drive footfall.
“Unfortunately it’s a commercial reality – consumers expect price deals.
“We just need to work with retailers to put gifting solutions in place to excite consumers and make sure Champagne is sold full-price throughout the year.”
Piper is significantly investing in the brand to build consumer excitement in 2013.
Olivier said: “We have supplied Champagne to the Cannes Film Festival for 30 years and now for the first time we are going to amplify this in the UK off-trade through limited-edition bottles, PR support and competitions.
“We have a new consumer website that will be finished at the end of the month and new POS.
“We know our wines stack up – our chef de cave Regis Camus is IWSC sparkling winemaker of the year six years in a row – and it’s just about education.
“We haven’t been in a great place and it’s about how we manage ourselves out of that situation.
“It would be very naïve to say that this will be turned around in six months. It’s a 10-year journey.
“I think it will be around for another 230 years. We will see it hit the heights in the next few years.”