In a sneak preview to the feature interview in the upcoming issue of Formes de Luxe, Cyril Camus, CEO of cognac house Camus, discusses the health crisis' impact on the cognac market and how this has jump-started the brand's drive towards premiumization.
How has the health pandemic affected Camus?
The crisis has had a major impact on our business: in 2020 we lost about 50% of our turnover, which includes our Chinese spirits distribution activity. Suffice to say it was a big blow.
Historically, Camus has had a strong presence in airports, particularly among Chinese, Russian and Korean customers, who still are not traveling today. We have partly made up for this drop, but duty-free sales still have not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
That said, today we are seeing strong performances in domestic markets, both in the US and in China – especially with the emergence of Hainan’s duty-free platform where Camus opened its very first store at the end of November 2021 - as well as in Russia and France. The US and China alone generate 80% of our growth to date.
This crisis period has been revealing on several fronts: in addition to the importance of travel retail for the brand, our point of differentiation lies in the quest for refinement from both a taste and an aesthetic perspective. The range that will be released over the next few months reflects this emphasis on “très beau”. It’s safe to say that the temporary reduction in travel-retail sales has given us ample visibility of this other aspect of the Camus house.
Does this approach emphasize a move upmarket for Camus?
Indeed, we’re clearly embarking on a strategy of premiumization of our ranges, which naturally entails a renewal of our packaging. Last October, Camus’ Ile de Ré cognac was redesigned to be much more graphic, lively and colorful. The packaging tells the story of the product and its specificity, which dovetails with an elevated tasting experience. Our Borderies X.O., also recently redesigned, is performing very well.
This move upmarket is also taking shape through the unique products coming from the Ateliers Camus, which we launched a few years ago to create bespoke cognacs that tell the story of an individual. These unique pieces are developed according to that person, who acquires the cognac and celebrates the key moments of his or her life through a specific blend and packaging.
What is your outlook for the cognac market?
Consumption is very high today. We have never shipped so much cognac, so the slump in 2020 has been largely made up for and will be exceeded in 2021.
At the same time, we are facing accelerating demand, while production capacity is no longer increasing. This imbalance between supply and demand means that the only way forward for cognac is to continue its premiumization trend.
The other major trends concern the development of "pleasure moments” with a return to consumption at home - a significant trend in our post-pandemic era.
See the upcoming Winter 2021 issue of Formes de Luxe for the full feature interview.