Rise of the cava brands

22 February, 2008

Slowly but steadily sparkling wines from outside Champagne are gaining on their more traditional rivals. Last year half the top 10 sparkling wines in the UK off-trade were Champagnes - this year Nicolas Feuillatte has dropped from ninth to 12th place with a 5 per cent sales slump and been replaced by cava brand Marqués de Monistrol - leaving Champagne outnumbered.

Losing 5 per cent of value sales and 10 per cent of volumes is a blow for market leader Moët & Chandon, even though it is comfortably ahead of its closest rival, Moët Hennessy stablemate Veuve Clicquot. The company is rolling out a project to educate consumers about vintage Champagnes.

Lanson also has plans to teach drinkers about vintages. The brand grew sales by 13 per cent this year, but has said it is having trouble meeting demand for non-vintage Champagne. Bollinger also had a good year, with sales up 14 per cent.

Jacob's Creek seems to have hit a plateau, despite a radio ad campaign target ing women this summer.

Meanwhile, Hardys Crest's sales leapt 30 per cent. The brand has been heavily promoted in multiple grocers and has no doubt eaten into Jacob's Creek's sales.

Codorníu spent the year growing its distribution and has boosted sales by 23 per cent against a 14 per cent volume increase. Last year's eighth-biggest brand has now made it into the top five - overtaking Freixenet. But Freixenet may be hoping to hit back with an ad directed by Martin Scorsese , which was shown in Spain last year and is expected to hit UK TV screens some time in 2008.

Although supermarket own-label sparklers have been winning awards and outdoing leading brands in blind tastings, own-label generally had a poor year, with sales falling 1 per cent to £144.6 million, 24 per cent of the market.

In spite of moves in some sectors to make bubbly an everyday drink, it hasn't lost its celebratory edge, which means it remains seasonal - and is dependent on promotions. So when one brand's fortunes rise, it probably means it's been picked for promotion by a supermarket, and a rival's star will be falling .

Star performer

Marqués de Monistrol has gained a number of supermarket listings this year and has grown sales by 68 per cent and volumes by 60 per cent. Look out for a major marketing campaign this spring, including on-pack promotions and a competition to win a trip to Barcelona.

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