The Cognac market experienced a downturn in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis, with an 11.3% drop in volume and 22.3% decline in value. Nonetheless, it showed strong resilience with a sharp recovery in 2021.

Cognac production remains geographically constricted by AOC regulations within certain French regions, with the lion's share of 97.6% of its production being exported in 2021, particularly to high-demand markets like the NAFTA zone and East Asia. The United States and China are major consumers, with cognac often perceived as a luxury beverage, leading to a trend of "premiumization" where producers are focusing on higher-priced and aged categories (V.S.O.P. and X.O.) to cater to these markets.

Additionally, a growing interest in environmental consciousness and organic cognacs signals new market opportunities, with producers increasingly adopting sustainable practices.

Navigating the Prestige and Growth of the Cognac Market in France

In recent years, the cognac market in France has experienced a notable trajectory of growth, presenting as a long-term upward trend worldwide. Cognac, an illustrious French spirit, has maintained its prestigious status with sales skyrocketing to nearly €3.6 billion by 2021, reflecting steady progress with average annual growth rates catapulting up to 7.6%. Even after a slump due to the health crisis, the sector rebounded with cognac shipments surging by about 16% in volume and approximately 31% in value between 2020 and 2021, showcasing remarkable resilience and a clear demand for this luxury product. As a high-value export, cognac commands the lion’s share of French spirit exports, making up roughly 75% of the export value despite just constituting a little over 32% in volume. It is a testimony to the product's premium nature and France's international reputation for indulgence and quality.

The U.S. and China emerge as heavy consumers, with the former buying between 110 and 120 million bottles and the latter over 50 million bottles, reflecting a broad appreciation for this spirit across diverse cultures. Interestingly, the consumption of cognac within France trails far behind its export success. Representing less than 5% of its total market, the French largely associate cognac with the corporate world, while its image in the U.S. is considerably more fashionable, often found in bars and nightclubs. In China, cognac is particularly prized at social events, signaling its role as a beverage of celebration and prestige. However, the overall alcohol consumption in France has been on a steady decline, with per capita consumption dipping, particularly significant in wines. While the French alcohol market has seen a decrease, the cognac market stands apart, possibly due to its positioning as a luxury item rather than a staple alcoholic beverage.

Regarding cognac’s market structure, the sector is tightly concentrated, with four major conglomerates—Hennessy, Rémy Martin, Martell, and Courvoisier—dominating the global market with a combined 80% share. Despite this oligopoly, there’s a considerable presence of other players in the market, including nearly 4,300 winegrowers and various trading houses and professional distillers. 

Major Houses Dominating the Cognac Landscape

The cognac market is characterized by its level of concentration, with a handful of major players commanding the majority of market share. These titans within the cognac industry are not only steeped in history but also in market power, managing to maintain their foothold amidst changing consumer trends and global demands.

  • LVMH's Hennessy: A Synonym for Cognac Excellence - Hennessy, under the umbrella of luxury goods giant LVMH, is a force to be reckoned with in the cognac world. Its legacy, which extends over 250 years, has positioned it as a global cognac ambassador, renowned for its range that includes the well-celebrated Hennessy V.S, V.S.O.P, and the prestigious X.O. The firm’s mastery in blending has ensured its prominence in both established and emerging markets.

  • Remy Martin: The Epitome of Fine Champagne Cognac - Rémy Martin, associated with Rémy Cointreau, is another emblematic house that concentrates on cognac production exclusively from the prestigious Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions. Its reputation for producing fine quality cognac is reflected through its revered product line, including the sought-after Louis XIII, a symbol of luxury and craftsmanship.

  • Martell by Pernod-Ricard: A Heritage of Distinction - Martell, part of the Pernod-Ricard conglomerate, is one of the oldest cognac houses with more than three centuries of experience. It is renowned for its unique production process that emphasizes the removal of sediments to ensure a cleaner wine for distillation, resulting in a cognac that is smooth and rich in character.

  • Courvoisier: The Toast of Historical Legends -  Courvoisier, now under the umbrella of Fortune Brands, is distinctive among the major houses for its deep historical connections, even acclaimed to have been the choice of Napoleon Bonaparte. The brand's commitment to quality and innovation keeps it at the forefront of the industry, appealing to connoisseurs and new consumers alike.

Together, these houses stand as pillars in the world of cognac. Their intertwined narratives of heritage and innovation encapsulate the essence of a centuries-old craft that continues to charm and captivate the palates of global audiences.

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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Presentation and delimitation

Cognac is produced in an appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) area, delimited by decree in 1909. The vineyards dedicated to the production of six different crus cover 75,000 hectares, extending over Charente-Maritime, a large part of Charente, and a few communes in Dordogne and Deux-Sèvres. This eau-de-vie belongs to the category of wines and spirits, and is consumed as an aperitif or digestif in France.

The cognac market in France is concentrated, with a small number of players. Alongside the major houses, these players include winegrowers, trading houses, cooperatives and distillers, both professional and "de cru".

For industry players, the cognac market represents steadily rising sales, with average annual growth of 7.6% between 2015 and 2019. The market declined in 2020 due to the health crisis, but will return to pre-crisis levels by 2021.

Most French production is exported internationally (notably to the United States, China and Singapore).

The market is highly concentrated, with four companies sharing 80% of the global market (Henessy with LVMH, Rémy Martin with Rémy Cointreau, Martell with Pernod-Ricard, Courvoisier with Fortune Brands). But competition is increasingly fierce on international markets, and other types of brandy, such as armagnac and calvados, are also trying to export to the USA and Asia.

The low consumption in France can be explained in part by the way people view cognac: a drink consumed mainly in the business world. In the United States, cognac enjoys a more "trendy" image, and is available in the country's bars and nightclubs.finally, in China, cognac is considered a beverage mainly consumed at social events (receptions) or social gatherings (nightclubs and bars).

The trend is towards "premiumization" of products, with the aim of standing out from the crowd, with bottles of cognac selling at ever-increasing unit prices. In addition, growers are keen to improve their relationship with the environment, for example, by limiting their use of pesticides and/or using new, "greener" cultivation techniques.

List of charts

  • Trends in cognac market size
  • Breakdown of exports by volume
  • Breakdown of exports by value
  • Value of cognac exports
  • Main cognac-buying countries
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Latest news

Never full of acquisitions, Campari ready to revive Courvoisier cognac - 16/12/2023
  • campari, the group that owns the Grand Marnier liqueur and the Aperol aperitif, is negotiating with Japan's Beam Suntory to acquire 100% of its Courvoisier cognac for 1.1 billion euros, i.e. almost 5 times sales (230 million euros by 2022).
  • Beam Suntory's strategy is to refocus on its premium whiskies (American bourbons, Japanese whiskies, etc.).
  • Campari generates sales of 2.7 billion euros
  • Half of the growth in recent years has come from acquisitions: Grand Marnier (2016), Trois Rivières rums (2019), Lallier champagne (2020), Picon liqueur in 2022.
  • The Italian group has made seven acquisitions in six years in France
  • The United States, Campari's biggest market
  • To grow in China, where Campari is weak, you need a cognac
  • alongside Martell (Pernod-Ricard), Hennessy (LVMH) and Rémy Martin (Rémy Cointreau), Courvoisier is the fourth-largest player in this Charentais spirit, with a 5% global market share. 50% of its sales are made in China, where the local spirit, baijiu, remains ultra-dominant (97% of the local market by volume).
  • Imported cognacs and whiskies have been in vogue for the past decade. Pernod Ricard, Diageo and LVMH take the lion's share.
  • In the United States, Campari already generates nearly 30% of its business.
  • Aperol leads Campari's sales (25% of sales in the first nine months of 2023).
  • Sales of Wild Turkey bourbon, acquired from Pernod Ricard in 2009, have more than tripled.

Campari falls for Courvoisier, venerable Cognac house - 15/12/2023
  • Campari is in exclusive negotiations to acquire 100% of Beam Holding France, owner of the Courvoisier premium cognac brand.
  • Fixed purchase price: $1.2 billion
  • Campari acquired American bourbon producer Wilderness Trail Distillery LLC in 2022
  • Campari had also acquired Grand Marnier in 2016, Bisquit Dubouché in 2017, Trois Rivières and La Mauny in 2019, Champagne Lallier in 2020 and Picon in 2022.
  • Founded in 1860, Campari is present in over 190 markets with a portfolio of more than fifty brands
Cognac: Rémy Cointreau a victim of the difficult spirits market - 27/10/2023
  • Rémy Cointreau U.S. sales down 26.6% in first half
  • The group forecasts a drop in annual sales of between 15% and 20%.
Anne Miller (Beam France): "We'll be leading the next sales negotiations" - 08/10/2023
  • Beam Suntory is the world's third-largest spirits company.
  • Beam Suntory is a leader in three segments: premium whiskies, Japanese whiskies and bourbons.
  • The company operates 26 distilleries worldwide, including one in France for the production of Courvoisier cognac.
  • Some 6,000 people work for Suntory.
  • In 2022, the company achieved sales of around $5.5 billion (€5.22 billion).
  • France is the leading market for whiskies in Europe.
  • Beam's launch in France comes less than a month before the start of commercial negotiations.
Spirits: Beam Suntory France officially launched - 08/10/2023
  • Beam Suntory is the world's 3rd largest spirits company.
  • Beam Suntory France will be created in January 2024.
  • Beam Suntory France will employ 40 people.
  • France is an important market for Beam Suntory, as it is the world's luxury center and Europe's leading whisky market.
  • The current distribution agreement between Beam Suntory and Campari ends in 2023.
  • Beam Suntory International employs 6,000 people in 30 countries.
  • The launch of Beam Suntory France represents a significant expansion of Beam Suntory's presence in Europe.
  • Beam Suntory's portfolio in France includes Jim Beam and Maker's Mark bourbons, House of Suntory whiskies and spirits Yamazaki, Hibiki, Hakushu, Toki and Roku, Laphroaig and Bowmore scotch whiskies and Courvoisier cognac.
Campari France to distribute three Proximo Spirits brands - 08/10/2023
  • Effective date of agreement: January 1, 2024.
  • Players involved: Campari France and the American company Proximo.
  • Number of brands involved in distribution: 3 (Bushmills, The Sexton and The Kraken).
  • Geographical area covered: mainland France and Monaco.
  • Distribution channels involved: GMS (Grande et Moyenne Surface), CHR (Café, Hôtel, Restaurant), wine merchants and E-Commerce.

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

Terroirs Distillers
Painturaud Cognac
Cognac AE Dor
Cognac Augier
Château de Cognac
Bisquit et Dubouché (Campari France)
Château de Plassac
Cognac Rastignac - Château de Plassons
Cognac Claude Chatelier - Maison Ferrand
DEAU Cognac - Domaine des Moisans

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