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Charles de Pontevès interview: Why Moët & Chandon connects deeply with Nigeria

“Nigeria is a worldwide model very similar to Moët, so there’s a match proper there.”

Charles de Pontevès’ present function as Enterprise Improvement Director, African Center East (AFME) and World Journey Retail (GTR) has come off the again of 30+ years of stable work and an adept understanding of vineyard and its enterprise.

His is a storied profession that has seen him work in 5 international locations throughout Europe and the Americas. Since March 2021, he has been liable for the operations of Moët & Chandon within the African and Center East areas, whereas additionally overseeing the GTR, a job he has described up to now as “a real pleasure.”

We caught up with Charles in Lagos lately and had an exquisite chat with him on his journey, the success of Moët and Chandon in Nigeria, how Maison waded the tumultuous waters of the pandemic, and the way they’ve managed to make Moët and Chandon so standard that it has now primarily turn into a popular culture fixture in Nigeria.

30 years is such a very long time to have been in a single business and if anybody can speak about how issues have modified in wines and hospitality, it’d most likely be you. What modifications are you able to establish throughout the business?

After all, our business has advanced quite a bit since 1990 after I left my former profession in tech to affix Ruinart. I believe between then and now, our business has turn into much more skilled, adopting new applied sciences from different industries into ours. We now have additionally turn into very world as an business; and naturally, there was a number of technological innovation. For instance, on the wine stage, we’re much more exact at present than again within the day. At every stage of the elaboration of our champagnes, we’ve turn into extraordinarily exact. On the communication stage, we’ve gone digital and on the coaching stage, we’re utilizing Zoom conferences. So, there’s a large transfer. Additionally on the distribution stage, there was a shift within the sense that gross sales groups of the identical measurement are distributing greater than these of 30 or 20 years in the past. So there have been large modifications, I’d say.

How is the African market completely different from different markets and the way does Moët & Chandon strategy these variations whereas constructing its manufacturing, distribution, and advertising technique for Africa?

I discover the African market fully fascinating. For me, it’s a very great expertise and discovery. I received this Enterprise Improvement Director function in March 2020 and sadly, it was the hardest interval of Covid-19, and we couldn’t journey. I’ve now managed to journey to a few international locations since January 2022, however I’ve not coated the entire African continent which is a mosaic of so many alternative cultures. It’s fully superb, and that is what fascinates me probably the most.

Once you journey round Europe, it’s largely the identical. However in Africa, it’s fully completely different: you’ve got cultures and passions and since I’m a passionate individual myself, I see these wealthy variants of tradition and it will get me actually animated each time. It’s been unbelievable to find South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Congo, and Morocco… all these international locations have historical past, tradition, dynamism, and keenness for our manufacturers which is extraordinarily motivating. So, for me, the long run and potential of Africa are superb and key for our personal model. We can’t play with out Africa and the center east. We imagine that Africa is a unbelievable reserve of alternatives. And I need to add that inside these Africa and Center East alternatives, Nigeria is a cornerstone. It’s a main economic system for our champagnes. So, it’s clearly a precedence.

You hear Nigerian artists name-dropping Moët and Chandon in numerous songs and it reveals how culturally related the model has turn into right here. How has Moët and Chandon constructed on the peculiarities of Nigeria in its journey to changing into part of our popular culture?

I suppose that Nigerians are instinctively, culturally, and fully related to our manufacturers, Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon; there’s a match. Our champagnes have this fashion and this communication and historical past. We’re a bit like somebody you develop a reference to, and Nigerians have clearly developed a unbelievable reference to Dom Pérignon and Moët & Chandon. They actually wish to rejoice and revel in with Dom Pérignon each in Nigeria and even overseas.

We all know Nigerians journey quite a bit. We see them in Kenya, London, in the course of the summer season in Mykonos and naturally the USA. Nigeria is a worldwide model very similar to Moët so there’s a match proper there. I additionally imagine that Moët being, as you recognize, the primary champagne home on the planet focused Africa very early. We had distribution in Africa as early because the nineteenth century. So, it’s been an extended relationship. Our brokers have been right here for greater than 100 years, so I believe this additionally performs a component. It’s an extended historical past of connectedness, we did not simply burst into the scene lately. I believe that each one these facets create this proximity between Moët & Chandon, Dom Perignon, and Nigerians.

And the standard of the product additionally helps the acceptance as properly, after all

Completely. We’re fully passionate concerning the stage of high quality we put into every stage of our manufacturing. We attempt to get the perfect grapes, then we wish to transmit the style of the fruits to the wine, so we do the primary stage very quick, you recognize, to guard the authenticity of the grapes. Our wines usually are not uncovered to oxygen at any level of the elaboration. We now have continuously invested within the latest and finest know-how to essentially produce impeccable bottles of wines.

Let’s discuss concerning the Covid interval and lockdowns within the African market. That should have been a troublesome interval for Moët, sure?

It was unattainable to journey as I mentioned earlier. However we needed to work round these limitations. On the enterprise aspect, as a result of individuals couldn’t journey and even go to the shops to get stuff as a lot as they’d like, they ended up exhausting their dwelling provide of drinks. By the tip of the primary lockdown, individuals had consumed all of the drinks that they had at dwelling. So, when lockdown was briefly lifted, we found that folks upgraded their purchases. We noticed a rise within the demand for our merchandise. Covid, for us, was a possibility of kinds, as individuals upgraded their consumption, transferring to Moët & Chandon and Dom Perignon. As a matter of truth, we ended up not having sufficient in our cellars as a result of individuals had been actually shopping for them swiftly which was fairly loopy. So, I’d say in an odd means, Covid was an attention-grabbing interval for us.

Between the tip of lockdowns and now… how are issues in search of Moët & Chandon?

I believe individuals have realised that they like to be collectively relatively than meet on-line. So after all, there are extra meet-ups, summer season festivals are again, partying is again and persons are simply excited to be spending time collectively once more. And naturally, enterprise is again and we’re going robust. We imagine that the expansion spurt skilled throughout Covid will proceed as a result of upon getting tasted Moët & Chandon and our different merchandise, you don’t wish to cease. And once more, I believe Covid has helped the push in that course.

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