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How One Family Business Competes In A Luxury Market

publication date: Nov 16, 2011
author/source: Shira Levine Freelance Writer, Business Insider

How One Family Business Competes In A Luxury Market

How One Family Business Competes In A Luxury Market

November 15, 2011

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Unless you’re a champagne aficionado, you probably haven’t heard of Louis de Sacy champagne—yet, that is. You know Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, and Cristal thanks to pricey luxury brand awareness campaigns—and to multi-platinum rap and hip-hop lyrics.

But the idea of an already long-established bottle of bubbly stepping up armed and ready to expand palates and buyers' minds is a brave challenge the Louis de Sacy label has decided to take on this year. Jonathan Sacy, the U.S. brand manager of the family-run business, views the world’s current and difficult economic situation as just the right time and the perfect opportunity for such expansion.

His plan? High quality products on par with the aforementioned sparklings, but with much lower price points to dazzle drinkers throughout the U.S. and Asia.

Move over, Prosecco! There’s a new bubbly to be poured!

A grand (Cru) education

"Our marketing budget cannot be compared to the big brands' budget[s]," says Sacy. “We are producers, and we're building our brand step by step."

Nevertheless, the Sacy family has long been involved with wine—the family has held vineyards in Verzy, France, since 1633. The name Louis de Sacy emerged much later, a clever play on the family name (thanks to ancestor Pierre Louis de Sacy) along with France's famed royal first name.

Rather than try to one-up the big brands with out-of-nowhere big budget marketing, Sacy is dedicating efforts to the education/training of salespeople and consumers.  That education is rolling out in the form of tasting events.

“We want to bring Louis de Sacy to life, so we're pouring from our four bottles at individual wine stores, our own distributor's offices across the country and at restaurants that serve our champagnes,” says Sacy. “In France, particularly in Champagne, champagne is not necessarily a special-occasion beverage. In the U.S., champagnes have the reputation of being expensive and exclusive. They're reserved for holidays only. Champagnes can also be affordable and paired with meals like wine.”

Because American consumers are growing more interested in champagne in general, Sacy has set his eyes on consumers who consider champagne a special wine and proposing the notion that this champagne wine can also have different terroirs and quality levels.

“Legendary and well-known champagne brands are important to all of us since they represent our region,” says Sacy. “These brands are important to keep the international image of our product high, to maintain it as a luxury product used for the most important celebrations worldwide.

Louis de Sacy’s Brut Grand Cru, for example, is priced at $40 and works as an aperitif, but is also often paired with foods like salmon.

The artisanal vs. luxury market

Knowing exactly who or what Louis de Sacy is as a product and how the company wants to expand in the U.S. made coming up with a strategy easier to craft. The company wants to keep it simple. It's a family company. It's a small company. Its brand is artisanal. Their products are affordable, but have a higher level of quality than other sparkling wines, like proseccos, because of the preciousness of  France’s Champagne region.

“We had received press in the United States previously,  and we now wanted to focus on national lifestyle, travel and culinary publications read by the types of consumers interested in wines and champagnes, while also targeting food and beverage trades to help build business in restaurants and hotels across the United States,” says Sacy, who personally moved to New York to focus on expanding the U.S. distribution.

Louis de Sacy is currently sold in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Florida, Texas, California, Minnesota and Nevada.

How it sets itself apart

The Sacy’s multi-century family history relating to the vineyard is the kind of detail that differentiates the company from its competitors, and the family is happy to promote it.

“We are a small company with a long history, and our grapes are hand-cultivated, and we produce only Grand Crus,” says Sacy. “And yet, we are still so affordable.”

To keep things personal, Sacy and his father Alain personally host many of the tasting events and champagne dinners.

“We want buyers and consumers to associate Louis de Sacy with my face, with our personalities, our family. We are the brand,” says Sacy.  “We bottle and ship ourselves, our terroir is stronger and our pricing far more competitive than the big champagne conglomerates who have to pay to have their grapes grown across the region.”

The Sacy family launches new champagne cuvées regularly and creates a narrative for each bottle with a unique story and creative packaging.

“When we introduced Cuvée Nue, which is a no-sugar-added Champagne that translates to 'Naked Cuvee,' we wanted to package it differently,” says Sacy. “So we gave it a clear bottle with a reverse label, so you have to look through this 'undressed' bottle to read the label itself.”

Conquering niche products

Sacy and his father saw two gaps in the champagne market that they set out to fill with their good-tasting and high-quality bubbly. The results include the no-sugar-added champagne, along with a kosher variety—two types of wine that are typically quite unappealing. The kosher wine satisfied a small niche of customers in need of a quality sparkling product, and the calorie-conscious varietal addressed a large population of drinkers concerned with their waistlines.

“The Brut Nature Champagnes was launched [to show] a natural product with no quality defects and, thus, showing the naked quality of our Grand Cru champagnes,” says Sacy. “Sugar in champagne [often] hides imperfections in quality."

Looking forward, the Louis de Sacy label is focused on reaching more private consumers.

“The brand is quite present in on-trade in the U.S., we want to develop mainly off-trade,”says Sacy. “We hope to slightly increase our sales, 10 percent, after the first year and to reach a more considerable increase, 25 percent, after three years.”

How does your company approach the dominating names in your industry?

Image: courtesy Louis de Sacy

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