24 November, 2001

Roundtrip India-Champagne

While big champagnehouses look towards the Indian subcontinent and its growing middle class with matching appetite and economy to buy de luxe articles such as champagne, the eyes of Indian United Breweries are fixed in the opposite direction.

United Breweries, the third biggest group in the beer, wine and alcoholbusiness worldwide, tried to achieve the house of Taittinger as this was up for the highest bid this spring. The seller - American Fund Starwood Capital - preferred to sell to the local bank, Crédit Agricole. Maybe, maybe not, because the employees of Taittinger were already threatening to go on strike. In certain parts of the French society strikes seem to be a bit of popular entertainment. Or maybe the distance between the world of Taittinger champagne and the world of Kingfisher beer is just to big.

Economic patriotism
So the Indians had to swallow the pill: No champagnehouse this time, no matter the bid. Frenchies just really dislike to see their proud heritage - such as Taittinger and Danone - bought by foreigners. Especially from the anglo-saxon corner of the world. Of course Pidgin is not really Oxbridge, but it is English all right when seen from France.

But of course you do not make it all the way to become a worldleader if you just give in that easily... and the Indians have not given up the idea of buying their own champagne bubbles.

One day we will buy a champagnehouse, said Abhay Kewadkar, who is chef de cave in United Breweries, to our local paper, l'Union, some days ago.

United Breweries is apparently still on the path of purchasing, even they did gain a little trophy at the Taittinger-sale, when they bought one of the best sparklers of the Loire-valley, the Bouvet-Ladubay.

Growth in subcontinent
While the Indians keep their eyes open for another possibility of entering Champagne, the champagnehouses move the opposite direction. The economic growth in India knows mainly one direction, and that is upwards. Fast. A new middle class with means develops all along, and of course it is interesting to get a portion of this new purchasing power.

The potential seems big. 10 million Indians drink alcohol, but only 150.000 wine, says secretary-general Jean-Pierre Bonnat of the French chamber of commerce to l'Union.

On top of this a new group of self-supporting women in big cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore, who cannot drink in for instance nightclubs, may still want to demonstrate their new social status by drinking champagne and cocktails, where this is acceptable, in fashionable bars and big hotels.

In the first half of 2006 the Indians bought 90.939 bottles of champagne, a growth of 127 percent. In all of 2005 the corresponding number was 115.983 bottles which was a growth of 150 percent compared with the numbers of 2004.

På dansk

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