[Exclusive interview]: Cherry Rocher

French distiller Cherry Rocher was a leader in the development of absinthe when sales of the ‘green fairy’ where legalized after a decades-long ban going back to 1915. In recent years sales have taken off, backed by a package of promotional activities, explains Pascal Leclere, Sales Manager France/Export North America/Eastern Europe

Q: How has the recent popularity of absinthe helped to increase sales?

A: Cherry Rocher was one of the first distillers to market absinthe since its re-authorization. Beyond the development of sales, this segment is one of the priority products for the company because of its high added-value. In line with the growing popularity of absinthe, we have developed an increasingly-wide range which now has seven brand references and many private label markets. As a result, we can say that Cherry Rocher is a major player in the return of absinthe.

Q: What is the turnover of Cherry Rocher Absinthe?

A: In value, turnover is circa €500,00.

Q: What are your top three markets?

A: Our absinthes are sold mostly in France.

Q: Describe the typical consumer of your absinthes

A: They are mostly male in mid life with a level of connoisseurship and living in the Eastern parts of France.

Q: What marketing programmes are in place to grow sales over the next three years?

A: In terms of product lines, we offer promotions on both Absinthe Blanche and Absinthe Verte. So as to be relevant to the two major consumption moments of aperitifs and digestifs we make offers depending on the drinks’ alcohol levels which extend from 45% ABV to 55%, 65% and 70% ABV.
To encourage purchasing trials, our main product line of Absinthe 65% Grand Or is also presented in 35cl bottles.
In the meantime, we are developing new organic formulations and quality using small and large absinthe plants.

Q: What types of price and promotional offers are available?

A: Our prices are very competitive so as to make consumption accessible. Promotions include absinthe glassware and spoons and absinthe fountains. We place advertising in customers’ leaflets and put cocktail booklets on bottle necks. There is also free sampling in shops; a dedicated page on our website and a social media demonstration. Not least, our Brand Ambassador creates cocktails using our Absinthe.

Q: What are your distribution goals?

A: They are three main aims: to grow the current networks; enter the organic distribution networks and enlarge exports through importers.

Q: Please give some examples of successful promotional campaigns.

A: Tastings in supermarkets and wholesalers led to Absinthe Cherry Rocher
being listed in the Metro cash and carry chain nationally.

Q: How important is the cocktail boom to sales of Cherry Rocher Absinthe?

A: Absinthe is increasingly used by mixologists in bars and night clubs and we noticed increased consumption in large cities when our range of Absinthes were listed in Metro C&Cs.

Q: How important is on-trade promotion?

A: Absinthe is a relatively expensive spirit so a price drop of a few percent is unlikely to make a big difference to sales. By contrast, promotional gifts in connection with the mode of tasting are a better way of triggering purchases.

Q: Do consumers need educating about Cherry Rocher absinthes and how and when to drink it?

A: Absinthe arouses strong curiosity and people are keen to rediscover how it was drunk in ‘the good old days’. For example, Absinthe of 70% ABV and more can be drunk as an aperitif or flamed. Absinthe of below 70% ABV can be drunk as an aperitif in the more traditional style by dripping water through a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon into the spirit in the glass.

Q: How do you distinguish Absinthe Cherry Rocher from other brands?

A: Cherry Rocher was founded in 1705 and we were producing absinthe well before the spirit was banned. Our absinthes are based on the old recipes found in our archives. It is this quality and authenticity that creates a point of difference in the market place. To illustrate this distinction, Cherry Rocher absinthes were awarded the Gold Medal at the Concours Général Agricole in Paris in 2018, the most recent of several medals won over the years.

Company profile: More than 300 years ago Barthélémy Rocher began distilling macerated fruits and plants to create new liqueur recipes. Merging with other distillers over the centuries boosted the company’s product portfolio, among them absinthe. Today, two-thirds of turnover is destined for private label liqueurs while exports of all liqueurs account for 27% of sales.

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