French alcohol companies attract new drinkers to Kenya



Food and drinks

French alcohol companies attract new drinkers to Kenya

Champagne Charles Ellner’s commercial director, Stéphane Dubois, serves a drink to a guest during the Tastin ‘France event at the Residence of the French Embassy on September 20, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG


  • Nineteen French wine and spirits producers and traders from the main wine-growing regions of France were in Nairobi to present and give Kenyans a taste of over 200 wines and spirits, and to seek partnerships.
  • Wine merchants, large-scale retailers and e-commerce platforms, coupled with the ease of payment via mobile money, have helped bring spirits and wines to customers’ glasses.

The rules for drinking wines and spirits were once quite simple. Drink what you know. But in this time of consumers turning to more expensive, rarer brands, don’t assume you know what your favorite drink tastes like.

It is this desire to eat and drink that opens up new opportunities for French wine and spirits investors seeking a greater share of the Kenyan market.

Nineteen French producers and traders of wines and spirits from the main wine-growing regions of France: Bordeaux, Champagne, Cognac, Rhône Valley, Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, among others were in Nairobi on Monday to present and give Kenyans a taste more than 200 wines. and spirits, and seek partnerships.

Ludovic Prevost, Regional Director of Business France, East Africa, said the Kenyan market is shifting from consumption of basic wines to high quality wines, making it ripe for French investors.

“A Kenyan consumer is knowledgeable and keen to benefit from cultivated products. For example, it is now very common to find groups of people, women, sharing a bottle of wine in a restaurant, ”he said during the event held at the French Embassy in Nairobi.

The consumption of wines and spirits is growing rapidly, thanks to the wealthy and middle classes in search of quality alcohol. Their preference now varies by country and region.

A de Fussigny Cognac from the Cognac region of France, a small rustic town with acres and acres of vineyards and known for the best wines and spirits, was one of the drinks investors aim to bring to Kenya. Cognac tastes luxurious and is packaged in bold designs, a far cry from conservative Kenyan brands.


Cognac ABK6 from the Domaines Francis Abécassis brand during the Tastin ‘France event at the Residence of the French Embassy on September 20, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

1800s heritage

It is the waves of familiar and unfamiliar aromas and flavors rushing through your senses that sharpen the palates of Kenyan drinkers, looking for alcohol from smaller, traditional distilleries, whose history dates back to the 1800s.

“The main idea is to work with a traditional product but to associate it with modernity and innovation”, explains Laura More, export and marketing manager of A de Fussigny Cognac.

Her first time in the country, Moore is looking for partners. The house seeks to bring in cognacs, eaux-de-vie and vodkas A de Fussigny VS, A de Fussigny Supérieur and A de Fussigny XO.

From the Bordeaux region was Jeremy Gordon of Jeremy Gordon Grand Crus. The first-generation winemaker, who says he only sells wines he loves, has brought classes of Grands Crus and premium brands with his chest, as well as an exclusive selection of Châteaux. He held the Monsieur de Bordeaux Rouge 2016 who will take Kenyans away in a whirlwind of wine and pleasure.

“A 100 percent Merlot makes it easy to drink. Soft, fruity and fresh. Simply elegant, ”said Gordon.


Jeremy Gordon, Managing Director of Flavones at the French Embassy in Nairobi on September 20, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Some investors target sophisticated consumers. One of these French brands is Icard Châteaux & Vignobles, whose Smiley brand was created mainly to target markets outside the European Union such as Kenya and in particular millennials.

The brand’s products are surprisingly easy to read and understand for new consumers, which caught the eye of Maureen Kanyi of Oaks and Corks, a Nairobi-based online wine and spirits company.

“I’ve seen some funny labels that have strayed from traditional labeling methods that consumers may not pronounce or remember. It’s a step in the right direction, ”she said.

The Terrasses de l’Arago were also present. The winery with vineyards in both the Roussillon and Champagne region distributes some of their wines in China, which is a growing wine market both in production and consumption, and in Kinshasa, DR Congo.

Thoma Magin, the co-founder of the winery, says Africa is a promising market and they are eager to make a mark in Kenya as they did in Kinshasa. Their wine portfolio included the red wines, L’Heritage des Terrasses 2015 – fruity with a nice peppery taste at the end – and the Châteauneuf du Pape 2019 – teeming with color and body, fruity but fresh.

“The 2019 Châteauneuf du Pape is a lovely wine,” said Ivan West, director of Solovino, a Kenya-based wine importing company.

He was at the wine and spirits event to find new wines for his Kenyan customers.

“I am impressed with the wide variety of high quality wines presented here. It’s just exceptional, ”he said, observing that with around 200 wines to taste, it would take him at least three to four hours to taste as much as possible.


A guest tastes Cognac ABK6 from the Domaines Francis Abécassis brand during the Tastin ‘France event at the Residence of the French Embassy on September 20, 2021. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Mr West noted that such events are goldmines in helping importers find new wines that local wine lovers will appreciate and continue to appreciate as their palates grow.

And to respond to the growing champagne market, Stéphane Dubois, the sales director of Charles Ellner de Champagne.

The family has been making champagnes of great personalities since 1905 in Champagne.

Among the varieties he presented, he shares them with BDLife the highlights of this vintage: the Charles Ellner Seduction Mill 2007 – Brut, 70 percent Chardonnay partially aged in old oak barrels and 30 percent Pinot Noir.

Against the light, the color is rich, without forgetting the fine and delicate bubbles. A swirl will leave your nose teeming with scents of dried nuts and vanilla, while on the palate it’s a nice blend of oak, fruit and citrus at the end.

The biggest wine exporters

Wine shops, large-scale retailers and e-commerce platforms, coupled with the ease of payment via mobile money, have made it possible to get spirits and wines to customers’ glasses.

“Wine is accessible in Kenya through such opportunities and will go a long way in ensuring that Kenyans get a taste of France over lunch and dinner. I hope this event and other similar events to come will open the door for local wine lovers to discover and savor these delicacies of France, ”said Mr. Prévost.

According to a 2020 Wine East Africa report, Kenya has a potential market of 7.2 million liters of wine that can fetch 8.6 billion shillings.

This presents an attractive opportunity for local and foreign wine producers. Last year, the biggest wine exporters to the country were South Africa with $ 10.5 million, France with $ 1.3 million and Chile and Italy with 1.05 million. dollars, according to annual international trade statistics.

Kenyans have found a new thirst for wine and spirits, and this upward trajectory is rooted in several factors. Among them, the emergence of an increasingly sophisticated middle class, the perception of wine consumption as a symbol of social status.

Kenyan producers such as Leleshwa Wines from Rift Valley Winery and Yatta Wines from The Trade Kenya Wine Agencies have a small share of the market.

Seeing such impending potential, wineries around the world are scrambling to get their foot in the door. Business France organized the event in Nairobi called “Tasting France”, a professional tasting of the best wines and spirits produced in France.

It brought together importers, distributors, restaurateurs and retailers, looking for partnership opportunities for the import and distribution of wines and spirits.


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