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The French whisky market in decline while growth in the gin market speeds up

18 November 2019

Stéphanie Lahad, Paris Office, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board




The French whisky market, which is one of the largest in the world in terms of consumption, with total off-trade sales of over 110 million litres [1], is starting to show signs of slow down with a decrease of 4% in volume and 1.5% in value in the June 2018 to June 2019 period, according to Nielsen.




There are three essential reasons for this decrease. First of all, the warm summer in 2018 saw an increase in the consumption of beer and rose wines are more popular amongst French consumers during warm weather periods. The yellow jacket crisis also impacted negatively on the sales of whisky, especially as it happened close to the Christmas period, a key time for whisky sales, with Father’s day. Finally the new Egalim law, which came into effect at the end of last year, capped the promotions and also impacted on the shelf prices which contributed to the slump in the market.



Almost all the type of whiskies were affected by this decrease, except Japanese and French whiskies: the Bourbon whisky category, which was very dynamic over the last decade, decreased by 1% in volume, while Canadian whiskies declined by 5%. Even Scotch whiskies, which make the bulk of the category (over 80%) declined by 5% for the standard blends and 11.5% for the aged blend (over 12 years old).




Irish whiskey sales declined by 1% too. Challenges in Irish whiskey listings with the leading French retailer was the main reason behind this decline. However, France still remained the 5th largest market globally for Irish whiskey exports in 2018.



Besides this, it seems that when French consumers are looking for Engaging Experiences, they are more inclined to look for them in the rum category, which grew by 5.7% in volume and 3.3% in value in 2018, and the dynamic gin category.



The gin category is growing at two digit growth in the French market (+12.5% in value and +5% in volume). Today, this spirit category represents 4.5 million litres [1] and is valued at 80 million euros in off-trade and is expected to grow by 12.6% by 2022[2]. There are numerous brands currently in the market (off-trade market leaders being Gibson’s, Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire, with private labels performing very strongly and on-trade market leader, Beefeater) which makes it very competitive, however the strong growth creates opportunities for exporters wishing to launch their brand in this market.




For more information, please contact stephanie.lahad@bordbia.ie



Next spirit show in France: Vinexpo 2020 in Paris from 12th to 14th February.



[1] Rayon Boisson (2019) - Sales from June 2018 to June 2019, Nielsen in Rayon Boisson (287)

[2] Rayon Boisson (2019).Dossier Gins in Rayon Boisson (288)

[3] The IWSR (2019)