For the first time ever, the brandy and spirits sector will be welcoming visitors at the International Agriculture Show to the French Spirits Federation’s own space. An interview with Thomas Gauthier, the Federation’s managing director.
Why did you decide to participate in the International Agriculture Show?
Thomas Gauthier: “It’s simple, really. Our sector has a real attachment to France’s terroirs, to our country’s regions and their agriculture. So it seemed like a given that we should make the reality of those bonds – which aren’t always obvious to our fellow citizens – more visible. Every year, nearly three million tons of agricultural products – grapes, sugar beets, fruits and grains – are distilled, macerated or infused to enter into a wide range of brandies and spirits. So our sector absolutely needs to improve how we organize our relationship with the farmers who produce the ingredients we need, through multi-annual contracts that were first introduced in the 1960s. This provides farmers with revenue security while guaranteeing our long-term access to high-quality agricultural products for making spirits.”
What is French brandy and spirits’ positioning abroad?
Thomas Gauthier: “Armagnac, cognac, liqueurs, rum, calvados, whisky etc… With 51 geographic indications, France offers tremendous diversity in its range of brandies and spirits. We have the largest spirits sector in the European Union: French spirits are exported to over 150 countries, contributing to France’s international renown.
“Nearly half of those exports go to North America, 25% to Asia, and 19% to EU member nations. Before the pandemic, export sales accounted for €4.7 billion a year. The health crisis led to a steep decline, with a 20% drop in exports by volume. But after two difficult years, we’re starting to see a rebound taking shape.”
What commitments has the Federation made in terms of environmental issues?
Thomas Gauthier: “The sector, which represents 250 firms and creates nearly 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, is 100% committed to environmental issues like reducing our environmental footprint, sustainable distillation, reducing intrants and transforming agricultural processes. We signed a chart to aim for 100% recycled glass by 2030 – as opposed to the current 87% for household packaging – which represents tremendous progress as it is.”