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Aspirational zeal propels cognac sales in SA

South Africa has risen to become one of the top markets globally for premium cognac producer Hennessy, according to its CEO, and a recent visitor to SA….

Laurent Boillot, president and CEO of Jas Hennessy & Co, noted a remarkable growth trajectory in sales since 2001, surpassing all European countries.

“South Africa has become our third-largest market worldwide in terms of volume. This achievement is truly outstanding. The United States holds the top spot, followed by China. Our journey here has been exceptional, with South Africa now representing a significant portion of our business. That’s why I’m here,” Boillot remarked.

He emphasised Hennessy’s longstanding association with South Africa, dating back to the first shipment of Hennessy cognac in 1866. Since then, sales have grown substantially, reflecting a growing aspiration among consumers to experience Hennessy.

“Our strategy focuses on integrating Hennessy into the local culture. It has become a symbol of advancement, embraced with pride by many,” Boillot added.

Hennessy, available in over 120 countries worldwide, is distributed in South Africa by The Really Great Brand Company, which also handles sister brands like Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon, alongside other premium labels.

The brand has found favour among affluent individuals and resonates particularly well with South Africa’s emerging black middle class, evident in the proliferation of upscale social venues in townships.

Boillot highlighted a growing cognac market in Nigeria and outlined plans to expand further into countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and Cameroon in West Africa, underscoring the continent’s strategic importance.

According to Sagaci Research, although cognac originates from France, domestic consumption there is minimal, with the majority exported. French-speaking African nations demonstrate lower consumption levels compared to English-speaking markets, where countries like Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, and Nigeria lead in consumption.

Hennessy is particularly favored among African consumers, competing with other renowned brands like Remy Martin, Courvoisier and Martell.

“Sagaci’s findings reveal that South African men are 56% more likely than women to have consumed cognac in the past year. Older and wealthier demographics also show higher propensity for consumption,” Boillot noted.

Overall, South Africa stands as the world’s fifth-largest cognac market, reflecting Hennessy’s successful penetration and growing popularity in the region.