IMPORTS of champagne plunged by 5m bottles last year as Britons turned to alternatives such as cava and prosecco.
The 15 per cent slump from 35.98 to 30.52m bottles was the lowest since 2002. With the fall in sterling, importers were hit and the recession also took its toll on customers.
At the same time, people are buying more cheap fizz than champagne for the first time, according to the latest figures
However, the drop in sales in Britain was lower than in most other countries.
US sales fell by 27 per cent, Italy by 28 per cent and Russia by 57 per cent, David Hesketh, managing director of Laurent Perrier in the UK, said, adding “people’s habits have changed”.
As well as the overall number falling, there has been a big trend towards “trading down”.
Hesketh said: “Our prestige cuvée in the £120 to £150 range has not performed as well as we would have liked, sales have slowed significantly as people have traded down to prices in the mid £30 to £40 bracket.”
Francoise Peretti, of the trade body the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, said: “I say thank you Britain, the UK market is extraordinary. I expected the 2009 figure to be down at least 20 per cent.”
The figures were released before the world’s biggest champagne tasting at Banqueting House in Whitehall.
City A.M. Reporter