Producers sold 33.72 million bottles in the US market throughout the year, according to new figures released today (6th April) by the Comité Champagne.
That represented a modest 1.2% decline compared to the record 34.2 million bottles sold in 2021.
The slight decrease was attributed to a dearth of supply towards the end of the year, as stocks dwindled and producers struggled to meet the surge in demand among consumers.
However, American wine lovers demonstrated an increasing fondness for more expensive cuvées, ensuring value sales increased by almost 20%.
That left the US well clear of the UK ($578.5m) and Japan ($455.4m) as the no. 1 export market for Champagne.
Gaëlle Egoroff, director of protection and appellation promotion at the Comité Champagne, said the region has now made ‘a true and full recovery from the challenges of Covid’.
Volume sales in the US decreased from 25.7 million bottles in 2019 to just 20.8 million in 2020, after the pandemic caused lockdowns across the country.
However, they rebounded strongly in 2021, hitting a record 34.2 million bottles, and the positive momentum continued last year.
‘The strength of the US market in 2022 shows that Americans are still eager to consume Champagne,’ said Egoroff. ‘In addition, American consumers are increasingly seeking out new moments for Champagne consumption outside of celebrations or special events, contributing to this strong result,’ she added.
Officials said the surge was driven by the continued return of in-person celebrations, while Americans are increasingly enjoying Champagne at after-work happy hours and meals with friends and family.
The Comité Champagne’s figures also showed that rosés accounted for 17% of sales in the US market last year, which is the highest proportion on a global basis.
It is also confident that the region will be able to meet demand in the future. Egoroff said 2022 was ‘a remarkable harvest both in quantity and quality, which is very important, as it will play a role in rebuilding stocks going forward’.
The 2021 harvest was very rainy, so quantity was low and producers had to dip into their reserves. By contrast, 2022 saw a quick and easy growing season, with perfectly healthy grapes, leading to well-balanced acidity and aromas.
One challenge lies in educating American consumers that Champagne is produced in a specific region in France, as opposed to anywhere in the world.
Surveys suggest that just 54% of Americans are aware of Champagne’s origins, compared to 86% of adults in France and Italy, 76% in the UK and 67% in Japan.
Education is key, as exports are becoming increasingly important to Champagne producers. In 2022, domestic sales dipped by 1.7% year-on-year to 138.4 million bottles, but exports rose by 4.3% to 187.5 million bottles.
Going forward, the plan is to ensure that Champagne is ‘always available, always desirable and always exemplary,’ according to Egoroff.
To that end, the Comité Champagne will increase its annual budget by 50% over the next two years, which will boost efforts to spread awareness of Champagne’s origins. It also plans to create a new centre of research, development and innovation.