Top cognac maker upbeat on SA market

GLOBAL president and CEO of Hennessy cognac house, Laurent Boillot, speaking during an interview in Sandton last week. | ITUMELENG ENGLISH Independent Newspapers

GLOBAL president and CEO of Hennessy cognac house, Laurent Boillot, speaking during an interview in Sandton last week. | ITUMELENG ENGLISH Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 24, 2024


Hennessy, the global cognac maker, has identified South Africa as its third largest market after the US and China, highlighting its strong performance in this region.

The reputable luxury brand has been present in South Africa since its first shipment in 1866 and has a strong global presence in 160 countries.

Laurent Boillot, the global president and CEO of Hennessy Cognac, spoke with The Star last week on his two-day visit to South Africa about the brand’s remarkable sales and its ongoing support of the cultural economy.

Boillot said since 2001, sales have been growing locally.

“South Africa has the largest volume in terms of achievements. It is performing well. I can now say that South Africa became our third-largest country in the world in terms of volume, which is quite an achievement. It's just after the US and China.”

On Hennessy being a recognisable brand, exuding class, and contributing to the cultural economy, he said: “It’s always about building the brand. We have been in activity since 1765, and what we do is a great product.”

President and CEO of Hennessy cognac house Laurent Boillot, speaking during an interview in Sandton on June 20. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspapers

The success and growth of the brand can also be attributed to the brand’s alignment with culture.

“We want to enter the local culture. The reason why we are very strong in the US is the culture we met back in the 19th century — the same in China. And that is what is happening in South Africa.

“It’s great to see that in the townships. What we hear now is that people aspire to drink Hennessy. It’s for the quality and what it’s representing — the batch for quality.

“Hennessy resonates with the hip-hop and amapiano cultures simply because we follow the culture.“

With the world moving towards living healthier a lot of people are increasingly moving towards cutting out alcohol consumption from their diets, “people are cutting down on alcohol and people are also loving alcohol. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of alcohol. It’s not always about drinking, but about (doing it) the right way.

“We are celebrating anything with alcohol. Moments in family, moments in business, gatherings. So there will always be these congenial moments, including with alcohol.

“At Hennessy, it’s not about quantity but quality because it’s about tasting something which is great. If you don’t like something strong, you can now cocktail it.”

Regarding the NBA Africa and Basketball Africa League’s strategic alliances and sponsorships of local musicians and the sports industry, Boillot said as basketball is a distinct sport, it was simpler for them to do so because it fits with their brand.

“Basketball is unique. There is no soccer culture, no tennis culture. But there is basketball culture, which is about fashion, music, and gatherings. That’s where we are. There are billions of fans in the US and China. And now we are developing it here in Africa. We have painted two basketball courts thus far.”

The positioning of the brand globally, especially in South Africa, is due to the professionalism and “perfect execution” of the South African team.

“What I’m seeing here in South Africa is the best execution on the planet. To be true to what we have been doing — to our consumers, to the culture, to being there in the right moment — that’s the way we want to go. So we will amplify it — even more.“

The president spoke about the issue of counterfeit brands, including Hennessy, being sold.

“It has not affected our image or sales, but we are fighting against that.

“We can’t avoid all the fakes on the planet. Like many other big brands, people like to fake us. But we are determined to fight. The labelling has to be clear if it’s original or fake.”