Spirits movers and shakers in France’s On Premise

The sales mix within the Spirits category has been driven by changes in occasion and channel across 2021 and these changes are forecast to change again throughout 2022 as new consumer behaviours are cemented.

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CGA’s authoritative On Premise Measurement service (OPM) suggests that some categories fared better than others within France and highlight which categories should be on the radar of suppliers and distributors over the coming months.


Here are six of the most significant ups and downs of volume share that CGA has tracked in the French On Premise sector.





Among all spirits categories leading the French On Premise sector, vodka showed the strongest performance in 2021. While the spirit is only the country’s fourth largest category by volume, behind liqueurs and speciality spirits, rum, and – by a short distance – whisk(e)y, CGA’s On Premise Measurement Service indicates that this is the category to watch over the coming months. Vodka gained significant market share, particularly in the second half of 2021, and recovered more quickly than most key spirits categories too. This was driven by premium brands in particular, with flavoured varieties also contributing to a lesser extent. This growth in share was experienced especially in the Parisian area and in the southern coastal regions as interruptions to the usual ski season activities meant Parisian’s stayed local, driving up the market share of the capital by +2,9% of total vodka across the November-December period vs 2019.


Such a positive performance has been stronger seen in drink-led venues such as restaurant bars and daytime bars, which managed to compensate for the lack of late-night trade in discos and nightclubs at a time when these were forced to close as a consequence of the pandemic.


CGA OPUS research suggests that whilst premium offerings are important for consumers who want to trade-up to premium and preferred brands, over a quarter of consumers are looking for value-for-money vodka demonstrating a polarisation of the category. The influence of friends, in addition to brand reputation also plays an important role in choice demonstrating the need for suppliers to ensure marketing helps enhance awareness and reputation. Operators and suppliers can continue to drive sales by offering an attractive pricing ladder within venues which stock the category so that they can cater to all vodka consumers across drink-led channels. While it remains the country’s fourth category by volume, its strong performance mean that the vodka category might be set to overtake whisk(e)y in 2022.



Tequila & Cachaca

Mexico’s and Brazil’s flagship spirits still represent a relatively minor volume share within the French On Premise sector. Yet, according to CGA data, tequila and cachaca combined scooped an additional 0.6% of the spirits market compared to its 2019 volume share – a significant figure considering the size of the category. Furthermore, tequila and cachaca enjoyed the best recovery over their 2019 volumes, suggesting strong consumer demand that offers plenty of room for growth over the rest of 2022.


Tequila in particular is thriving globally and increasingly appealing to consumers in France. It benefits from considerable innovation and major suppliers are investing in celebrity owned brands which is bringing a new consumer into the category. Cocktails play a key role for tequila performance, with 34% of consumers choosing cocktails as their preferred style of serve and the Margarita cited as one of the top cocktails in the On Premise.


Regionally, there was also a significant shift in market share towards the Mediterranean, growing share by 4.4% vs 2019 with the region now accounting for 1 in 5 tequila serves in the On Premise.  For suppliers and operators, tailoring strategies to match the different outlet, sales and consumer mix in the South will help maximise the sales opportunity posed by the growth in popularity.



In France, Gin might not benefit from the same popularity it enjoys in Great Britain or in Spain, yet the juniper-based spirit’s 2021 performance shows promising signs of growth if compared to its 2019 volumes. Moreover, gin has also experienced one of the strongest category recovery levels, second only to tequila and cachaca, hinting at lively consumer demand.


As 41% of consumers only decide what to drink when they are in a venue, there are significant opportunities to influence their choice. Over half (51%) of French gin consumers order gin without specifying a brand when ordering at the bar, yet they also tend to trust bar staff with specific brand recommendations (21%). Working effectively with On Premise bar staff is paramount for suppliers and distributors looking to profit from gin’s potential, enabling to build more effective advocacy programmes which achieve higher engagement, in turn helping to drive sales.





Overall, the whisk(e)y category experienced an underwhelming performance in 2021. It lost over 2% compared to its 2019 volume share, and its place as the third largest category by volume in France’s On Premise might soon turn into fourth as a result.


Whisk(e)y’s recovery was also disappointingly slower if compared to that of all other key spirits categories, particularly due to the poor performance of the entry level <12yo blended whisky which represents over half (58%) of the category volume. Performance was driven in part by the closure of nightclubs and curfews which is a natural heartland for the category and has had to adapt its serve approach to fit into a more daytime and food-led setting. Performance was stronger in more premium subcategories such as malts and >12 yo blends as well as American and Irish whiskeys.


Over two thirds (69%) of French whisk(e)y drinker’s order by brand when out and place a greater emphasis on reputation and brand loyalty. Suppliers need to align strategies with consumption drivers and drive brand awareness with consumers to be considered as part of the consumers’ purchase decision in venues.



2021 has been particularly unkind to the digestifs category. It underperformed all spirits categories but whisk(e)y, having recovered under 60% of its 2019 volumes.


Compared to its limited volume market share in 2019, digestifs have lost a further 0.5% in 2021. The category mix has however shifted towards the more premium Cognac brands, which now represents more than a third of the category, having gained 5.3% category share away from Eaux de Vie and Other Digestifs (Armangac, Calvados, Brandy).


Liqueurs and specialty spirits

The combined category of liqueurs and specialty spirits remains the largest within the French On Premise, yet showed a considerably slower recovery from its 2019 volumes if compared to cachaca and tequila, gin, vodka, and rum.


While the overall performance was disappointing, research shows that it was somewhat heterogeneous when broken down by brand or spirit type. Specifically, those appealing to an older consumer base fared worse, while brands targeting a younger crowd and benefiting from stronger marketing efforts enjoyed a much more satisfying 2021.


Liqueurs and amers did the heavy lifting for the wider liqueurs and specialty spirits category’s recovery. While the performance of the former – the largest subcategory – might have been expected, the latter represents a much smaller proportion within the category and might therefore offer the greatest potential for suppliers and distributors to capitalise on over the coming months.


For suppliers, it’s paramount to understand changing consumer dynamics and drinks trends seen in the most up-to-date category and subcategory performance to build effective On Premise strategies this year.


Graeme Loudon


CGA’s powerful market measurement and consumer research provide expert analysis of trends and opportunities across France’s On Premise. They unlock actionable insights for all suppliers and operators across drinks categories, helping sales and marketing leaders to effectively position brands, grow share and encourage trial, trade-up and loyalty.  To learn more about CGA’s research capabilities, contact Graeme Loudon at graeme.loudon@cgastrategy.com




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