Exclusive interview: Flourishing Hine is 255 years young with Per Even Allaire

Cognac and Armagnac are powering ahead in the US and China with growth of more than 10% for the next four years, forecasts Vinexpo/IWSR’s latest data. Cognac is flourishing, says the report, and the biggest thrust to growth will be among premium brands. Vinexpo Newsroom asked Per Even Allaire, Commercial Director at Hine Cognac, for his views on the sector. 
Q:             How successful is Hine Cognac in the last three years?

A:             Hine has registered an organic growth over the last three years in line with the region’s great performances, and outperforming the registered 10% volume growth of global    cognac export figures in 2017. We expect that growth to continue especially in the US and China, but also in many other parts of the Asia Pacific area.

Q:             To what do you attribute that growth?

A:             Hine growth in the US began about five years ago with a dedicated strategy developed with our US importer. It has turned out to be very successful. We now reach wider groups of decision-makers such as bartenders and professionals who create    awareness of the Hine brand.

Q:             What are your largest markets?

A:              Beyond the US, China and Asia Pacific. In Europe we are doing well, although the maturity of European markets allows less room for growth. Russia has performed especially well.

Q:             Is the Cognac sector too dependent on sales in Asia-Pacific?

A:             Nearly half of the population of the planet lives there…I think    that speaks for itself. But it is important to maintain balance. Not all economies are growing at the same pace and it is important not to put all our eggs in one basket. Nonetheless, per capita consumption is very low in those countries so that shows the opportunity.

Q:             What is the profile of the Hine consumer?

A:             It is very similar to wine enthusiasts. Hine has a connoisseur       consumer.Hine, and Cognac in general, is a premium and super-premium spirit. The challenge is to maintain that market segment while drawing in other groups such as                   discerning millennials.

Q:             How is that profile changing?

A:             Hine now attracts bar tenders and mixologists with a very high level of skills and an approach equivalent to Michelin chefs. The terroir and nature of cognac appeals to younger, upmarket professionals.

Q:             Are the styles of Cognac such as VSOP and XO understood by consumers?

A:             No. We spend a lot of time explaining and introducing Hine Cognac to new consumers all over the world. Cognac is a complex spirit, but in a positive way.

Q:             Is education playing a large part in promotions?

A:             We conduct many tastings every year with bartenders and consumers. I have just come back from Manila where, over two nights, we introduced Hine to bartenders on one night and consumers on the other. Because Hine is such a long-established brand* we have many very old cognacs maturing in our cellars from super-premium single estate to single vintages. We like to say we are 255 years young. This story appeals to our discerning customers. It is part of the DNA of the brand.

Q:             What kinds of innovation are under way at Hine?

A:              Our youngest cognac H by Hine was launched in response to demand from the bar trade and is now very well represented in this channel around the world.

Q:             How significant is the cocktail boom for Hine?

A:             The cocktail boom has done a lot to draw the attention of top-end bar professionals to the possibilities of Cognac. H by Hine was created for precisely that market. It is doing very well.

 * (Englishman Thomas Hine gave his name to the company in 1817, though its founding dates back to 1763)