Here in Ireland sales have been somewhat dependent on the economic environment where the wealth of the middle class consumer has strong correlations with the ability to develop in a country.
“We’re a luxury product and one can drink products cheaper than Hennessy,” points out Bernard Peillon, Chairman and Chief Executive of Maison Hennessy, who joined a number of his colleagues on a visit to Ireland recently to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the world-famous Cognac.
“Rather than stay in Cognac and celebrate” he tells Drinks Industry Ireland, “since we’re a totally international luxury product and have built our sales by markets, countries and people, we thought we’d take the celebration out to those people who helped us build the brand such as the US which first imported Hennessy in 1794, Russia in 1818 and China in 1859; so we’re visiting all five continents – and Ireland where our roots lie – to honour the men and women that, through the centuries, have made Hennessy what it is today.”
Hennessy and Ireland share “indefatigable ties, blood ties”.
He was here last February too, accompanied by a large group of Hennessy winegrowers to spend a few days celebrating that Irish connection.
Hennessy’s current six-stop tour began in the Asia Pacific region’s Guanjau before arriving here for a Gala Dinner celebration in Dublin and then moving onto Moscow (European region) in May.
June and July will see two trips US-side and this August will see celebrations take place in Johannesburg. The tour will close at a secret location in Paris.
Hennessy – 2nd most successful LMVH brand
Globally, Hennessy is the second-most successful brand in the LMVH stable after Louis Vuitton. And flexibility remains key to the brand’s marketing approach.
In Western Europe consumers tend to regard Hennessy as a luxury digestif. Here, it’s male-driven and fairly traditional in approach but the rest of the world sees it differently, explained Bernard Peillon.
“For example in the US young African Americans will enjoy Hennessy over ice or with cranberry juice or soda.”
In China, the mixed gendered young generation in its trendier city bars will order Hennessy by the bottle alongside a pitcher of cold green tea.
“Throughout the night they’ll mix tea with their Hennessy. It’s incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed in many different ways,” he believes, “This open attitude and the freedom this provides is how consumers now relate to luxury goods. People craft their own world rather than being dictated to and they relate to it in a far more flexible manner.”
Nevertheless, China’s sales boom has tailed-off somewhat with the government’s clampdown on corruption there, but sales are still encouraging.
“It’s not our first setback,” says a stoic Bernard Peillon, “In 250 years we’ve known them all – wars, famines, new regimes, trade blocks, politics etc. The reason we’re successful today is because of our agility, adaptation and pragmatism.
“Looking at China, we’re quite optimistic about the long-term prospects there where the future’s about personal consumption rather than gifting, but it does involve the middle classes there who’d be the key element for the future.
“How do we connect with this class? We know for the future that this middle class is expected to grow significantly. What we’re seeing from a business perspective is that China is one key market but the rest of Asia today is bigger than China for us and we see growth here too.
“Our international presence, our obsession, means that four or five years ago we started to prepare for the future.
“Today, as the US economy improves gradually and as a new cycle favourable to brown sprits begins we see Hennessy ahead of that cycle.
“As a leading brand in the US we’re experiencing a tremendous boom in sales which we expect to see continue this year.”
Indeed, a great deal of truth would seem to rest in Hennessy’s motto, ‘Crafting the future since 1765’…