While hardly shocking, the annual sales figures from France’s Champagne association highlight the impact of the pandemic on one of the nation’s signature products. According to Comité Champagne, the industry shipped 245 million bottles in 2020, down 18% from the previous year.
“Faced with an unprecedented crisis, the organization of our sector has proved its resilience,” said Maxime Toubart, co-president of the Comité Champagne and president of the Syndicat Général des Vignerons, said in a statement. “Together, the Champagne winegrowers and houses made a wise decision about yields last year. The adjustment that the Comité Champagne agreed to [on January 25] will give everyone a certain room for maneuvering.”
Already troubled by new sales rules in France that limited special promotions in 2019 and the impact of climate change, the Champagne industry received another blow when the pandemic shut down restaurants and bars in France during the first national lockdown. Throughout the year, amid various openings and closings, the French desire to celebrate was subdued, helping to keep sales week.
Export markets also were tough. The association reported a 20% decline in Champagne shipments to the U.S. last year compared to 2019.
Going into 2020, the industry had projected net sales of $4.8 billion (€4 billion). But instead, that figure is now expected to be only $1.2 billion (€1 billion) for the year.
In the face of this crisis, the association was eager to put on a brave face. It noted that the financial crisis of 2008 had also gutted sales, but Champagne products still managed to navigate the turmoil and enjoyed 7 straight years of growth.
To that end, Comité Champagne has renewed an agreement made last summer that lowered harvest volumes and set price levels to avoid over-production that could risk sending prices plummetting.
“Despite the crisis, Champagne remains dear to the hearts of consumers who feel the need to keep something exceptional in their everyday lives and to choose quality products when so many other pleasures are unavailable due to the health crisis,” added Jean-Marie Barillère, co-president of the Comité Champagne and president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne, said in a statement. “It is the strength and power of our appellation to be the champion of prestige and, above all, quality among our consumers.”