Nigerians’ Thirst for Champagne

22 May 2013

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Adeola Akinremi visited pubs and stores in Lagos and reports that the craving for champagne among the rich Nigerians has reached the high heavens, as the country becomes one of the world’s biggest spenders of the bubbly

At Pub 1 on Adekunle Fajuyi Way, Maryland, Lagos, no weekend goes without a gig. Sunday evenings especially has become a busy time for restaurant and bars in the Lagos metropolis as Nigerians unwind in readiness for Monday when traffic jams and work schedules oftentimes make many return home fatigued.

But the gig across bars these days holds one attraction: the sparkle that comes from a glass of champagne. With Cristal, Dom Pérignon, Moet et Chandon Brut, Moet et Chandon Nectar, Veuve Clicquot, Duval-Leroy and Laurent Perrier, Nigerians’ love for merriment is not hidden and popping champagne has become a in-thing and not just a passing fancy.

Interestingly, the champagne market is booming in Nigeria and it's not about to stop. Just about every store in town is launching a brand or two in what observers say is trendy and stylish. Indeed, nowadays a party without the Moet et Chandon, which is the most popular brand, may not be considered a complete in Nigeria. 

At a bar in Victoria Island where the wife of a socialite celebrated her 40th birthday last weekend, no other drink could win the race against champagne as the elite guests at the evening party seemed reconnected to the lyrics of Sidney Onoriode Esiri’s Pop Something. Popularly known as Dr. Sid, Esiri’s 2010 debut album, it contained the lyrics: When we celebrate, we dey pop champagne. Pop something. Make you pop champagne. Pop, pop, pop, pop pop champagne… And like a gale force wind, the champagne bubbly is everywhere in the country.

According to the latest figures on the global champagne market by Euromonitor International, champagne consumption in Nigeria will reach 1.1 million litres by 2017, with 2011 consumption at almost N8 billion (£31m). The report showed oil wealth, hip-hop, movie stars and an elite obsessed with status symbols as demand drivers.

Total champagne consumption reached 752,879 bottles (75cl) in 2011, higher than consumption in Russia and Mexico, therefore placing Nigeria among the top 20 champagne markets in the world.

In 2010, Nigeria consumed about 593,000 bottles, the highest consumption in Africa. The closest to this figure according to reports was South Africa, another country that has been identified as an emerging market for luxury goods, in addition to Nigeria. The study showed 849,000 litres in new consumption rate in the country with a huge gap between the rich and poor.

The Europe-based research company said that Nigeria may be assuming the new headquarters of champagne market with the highest consumption in the world second only to France, and ahead of rapidly growing nations Brazil and China, and established markets such as the United States and Australia.

A senior analyst at Euromonitor, Spiros Malandrakis was quoted as saying, “Champagne has its own demographic on the higher end of things – it's not even about the middle class, it's about the elite.

“People may find it surprising that Nigeria came second in the rankings, but it has extremely extravagant elite, with Nollywood and the oil industry.”

At Best Western Hotel on Ahmadu Bello Way where a recent birthday bash that attracted “big people”, in Nigerian phraseology, was held for Prince Buruji Kashamu, a socialite and business mogul, assorted champagne brands adorned the tables in large numbers with irresistible temptation, even by those who have not been given to drinking alcohol.

A party goer, Ken Ibe said: “You know it’s about taste. At some parties, all you see is beer and at another, all you see is coca cola, but when it comes to the high end kind of a party, a man can have five bottles of Moet to himself. Champagne is an elite thing, although the middle class guys too are joining the fray now.”

He added: “It’s not surprising that Nigeria beats other countries by becoming the highest spender on champagne apart from France which is understandable because champagne is produced in the country. The truth is we are naturally big spenders and we spend on quality items, no matter what it costs.”

Ibe may be right. Last year, a Lagos correspondent for the UK-based Guardian newspaper Monica Mark, reported that Nigerians are big spenders with purchases across UK stores that dwarf UK shoppers.

“Visitors from the West African nation are the UK's fourth biggest foreign spenders, ringing up an average £500 in each shop where they make purchases – four times what the average UK shopper spends,” said Mark.

“In Debenhams' Oxford Street branch, signs in Hausa, one of the (official) Nigerian languages in the country's largely impoverished north, direct shoppers to items on sale. This year, the shop said that Nigerian customers were its biggest overseas spenders.

“Daily flights plying the lucrative route between Nigeria and the UK have ballooned in the last decade. British Airways permits almost double the normal baggage allowance for the six-hour haul. In some cases, Nigerians are literally using their deeper pockets on sprees,” she noted.

At the discount supermarket giant, Shoprite, located near the Lagos State governor’s office at the east end of the Awolowo Way, within Ikeja central business district, at the weekend, shoppers were seen at the wines and champagne section taking out their favourite brands from the display areas and keeping the vendors busy with a restock.

A brand promoter at the champagne section simply identified as Rita said: “We see people come here and fill the basket to the brim with champagnes. The thirst is so great and it can only be imagined. Moet, Rose, Cristal, Mandois, Bisquit Cognac and Glemorangie are the ones I have seen many taking out of here.”

She confirmed that middle class shoppers are also buying champagne. “I may be mistaken, but I think middle class shoppers are also catching the bug because I have seen a few professionals here who are not necessarily socialites, but have a taste for champagne. They come sometimes as friends and on some occasions as a family to empty the stocks on the display area and that shows a great thirst for champagne in Nigeria. It’s really growing.”

Unexpectedly, the French bubbly, Montaudon, a high end brand of champagne is making its debut in the Nigerian market and seems poised to make its mark. Montaudon’s entry into the Nigeria market is the brain child of business man, Jide Adenuga, who said he expects the wine which sells for as much N750,000 to appeal particularly to all lovers of quality champagne.

“We are proud to be the sole importers of this exclusive champagne in Nigeria, and we expect Champagne Montaudon to appeal particularly to all lovers of quality champagne,” Adenuga said promoting the brand in Lagos.

According to him, Montaudon comes in six blends, to cater to a wide range of tastes: Réserve Première Brut, Réserve Première Demi-Sec, Chardonnay Premier Cru, Grande Rose, Brut Millesime 2002 and Classe M (the prestige cuvee).

He said: “Montaudon will be running a special introductory promotion. We want Nigerians to join in and have fun by ordering Montaudon ‘in French’. Anyone who orders “MON-TOE-DON”, even in a slightly French accent, will qualify for a special discount.”

So, yes, Nigeria has taken its place as the new champagne capital of the world.

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