TRBusiness visited the Cointreau distillery in Angers to discover the history and long evolution of the famous orange liqueur as well as its strong links to the feminist movement of the 30s, which continues to inspire the company’s ‘Creative Crew’ today.
Cointreau is well known for being the famous orange-flavoured liqueur with a surprisingly ‘crystal clear’ appearance and an iconic bottle design. However, the spirit boasts a steep history – at times quite ‘cointreauversial’ – which is underestimated by many cocktail lovers.
Nearly 170 years old, Cointreau’s story began in 1849 when brothers, Edourd-Jean and Adolphe Cointreau opened the doors to their distillery.
Edouard Cointreau, the son of Edouard-Jean Cointreau, grew up in the distillery and reached adulthood with the prospect of becoming a Master Distiller himself. In 1870 he joined his father and uncle as head of the family distillery.
“Cointreau is a worldwide brand so for Rémy Cointreau, all markets are important,” François Van Aal, Rémy Cointreau Regional Director GTR EMEA told TRBusiness in the city of Angers (western France).
“However, its market share is stronger in Europe so this region is particularly important because we can follow the shoppers who know the brand well historically – from Nordics, UK, Germany or France
Global travel retail accounts for a significant 15% of Rémy Cointreau’s total business (worth $1bn). “The global market share (of Cointreau) is 5.4% in TR and more particularly 5.7% in Europe where the brand is ranked as number 2 liqueur after Baileys,” adds Van Aal.
According to him, the No 1 duty free market for the brand is Australia, which is showing ‘robust growth’ at +36% in 2014. He says that the Gulf, France, Spain and Netherlands are also showing ‘great growth rates’.
Panos Sarantopoulos, CEO Liqueurs and Spirits Division of Rémy Cointreau, told TRBusiness during a trip to the distillery in Angers that the company expects to record 500m (single) servings this year.
However, neither Sarantopoulos or Van Aal discount the effects of a turbulent trading environment in the last few years on the company’s business. Both cited problems in Asia and Russia, along with the strong dollar and global terrorism [the attacks on Brussels actually took place while TRBusiness was in Angers] as having an impact on sales for Rémy Cointreau.
However, Sarantopoulos says that Cointreau remains a strong and stable proposition and that other liquor categories have certainly been affected more acutely.
“It’s not about discovery with Cointreau,” says Sarantopoulos, “Cointreau is an essential component to many classic cocktails.”
Sarantopoulos quantified the brand’s power and market share by saying that if Cointreau was a single malt whisky it would be a top six brand in terms of retail sales value and if it was a premium gin it would be ranked second.
It’s true that Cointreau needs no introduction to many places in the world – such as France, the US, UK, Belgium, Australia and Japan – and the brand is proud of its ‘iconic’ status. However, in recent years the brand has made the decision to reinvent itself – as it has done many times since 1849 – driven by the passion of Alfred Cointreau, a sixth generation family member.
Cointreau and Rémy Martin created a new blend of liqueur and cognac – named Cointreau Noir – which was launched in global travel retail in 2013.
The new Cointreau expression was created by Bernadette Langlais, Master Distiller of the House of Cointreau – who has worked for the company for over 38 years – and Pierrette Trichet, expert Cellar Master at Rémy Martin.
Just two years later, the brand was innovating once again with the launch of Cointreau Blood Orange, which debuted at Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airports.
The travel retail exclusive – which took nearly two years to create – was unveiled in activations under the banner ‘Show us your Cointreau face’ with Heinemann Duty Free at Frankfurt Airport terminals 1A, Z and 2 on 17 June in the presence of Madame Langlais.
“The liqueur category needs innovation and dynamism to stand out,” Van Aal reiterated to TRBusiness in Angers. “Cointreau Blood Orange is a discerning variant with a great elegant taste and attractive and daring packaging. This variant has brought a refreshed view on the brand from many consumers who did not know Cointreau very well.
“The support from the trade has been impressive with many activations across the regions. Of course the fact that the Blood Orange variant was a travel retail exclusive has been crucial for both the retailers and the shoppers.”
With the Blood Orange product in particular, the brand aims to increase the giftability of Cointreau. So far the reaction has been very good as it has been widely listed with the retailers with good rate of sales, says Van Aal.
“In terms of activations, our priority is to animate the ‘family’ including Cointreau Classic, Cointreau Blood Orange and Cointreau Noir.
“Our activation platform ‘Show us your Cointreau face’ allows viewers to discover the full range and entertain the shoppers through a photo-call allowing shoppers to express their ‘fashionista’ side.”
These new variants allow the brand to really ‘breathe’ on the shelf say, Sarantopoulos and Van Aal, who also reveal that there has been no cannibalisation of sales as a result of the two launches.
In fact the arrival of the new products has seen sales of Cointreau quadruple with some retailers. “For every 100 bottles of Cointreau, 40-60 are Blood Orange and 20-30 are Cointreau Noir,” says Sarantopoulos.
The most recent limited edition (pictured left) to be launched by the company was the ‘Great 30s’ bottle to celebrate the progressive ladies of the 1930s [which is available now in travel retail stores worldwide].
Cointreau revealed exclusively to the press in Angers the next limited edition bottle, to be called ‘Sparkle’ which features a symbolic faceted design. [More news on this to follow.]
Read the full-length article in the May issue of TRBusiness magazine.