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Meet the Member: Alexandre Maret, Brand Ambassador
Member news | January 27, 2020
French savoir-faire can take many forms, from luxury goods to fine gastronomy, however wine and spirits is perhaps one of the oldest traditions. In 2017, Reuters even reported that French exports had reached an all-time high of $15.94 billion USD. As global markets evolve, the role of an importer and exporter, as a trusted brand advocate and representative and advisor to the top tables and distributors in NYC and beyond, takes on even more distinction. As a Brand Ambassador, FACC Active-level Member Alexandre Maret is completely immersed in the wine and spirits world, sharing his passion with the French-American community and connoisseurs of Armagnac and Cognac specifically.
Co-Founded by Jean-François Bonneté, President-CEO, BCI is a family-owned and operated company specialized in representing, importing, marketing and building successful wine and spirit brands in the United States. BCI works with a blue-chip roster of wine and spirits producers through a personal and collaborative approach to ensure a long-lasting relationship and mutually beneficial partnerships.
Keep reading to learn more about his role and experience as a V.I.E (French Volunteer for International Experience program).
FACC: Can you describe a “day in the life” of a Brand Ambassador for BCI?
AM: Being a Brand Ambassador for BCI leads me to represent and sell the brands from the portfolio, in which the Armagnac Marquis de Montesquiou is part of. Since we have this role as « Brand-Builder » at BCI, education is by far one of the most important aspects of my position.
I speak with bartenders, mixologists, bar managers, store-sellers and owners, and influencers on a daily basis in order to provide them with as much information as I can about the brands and their histories, so it can be relayed to the final consumers. This is a long-time process and this is the reason why I need to be on the field as much as I can.
On the other hand, I have this direct relationship with our local New-York State distributor, Winebow, and their Sales Team. We closely work together in order to make sure that we provide our customers with the best possible service, products’ education and sales in fine.
FACC: Your role is focused on the development of the Armagnac Marquis de Montesquiou brand. Armagnac, an AOC from the Gascony region, seems to be an “under the radar” spirit in the U.S., benefitting from lesser recognition than Cognac. It was reported that with 6 million bottles exported annually, only 500k of them make it our shores. What potential do you see for the development of this category (Armagnac) and brand (Marquis de Montesquiou)?
AM: In fact, there is a huge gap between Cognac and Armagnac. Following their general assembly, the BNIA (Bureau National de l’Interprofession de l’Armagnac) reported that 5,7 M bottles were produced in 2018. 1,4 M sold in France and 1,6 M on the international markets, representing a total of 20 M euros Sales Revenues.
On the other hand, the Cognac category has recorded more than 210 M bottles sold in 2018/2019, representing a 3,4 billion euros Sales Revenue, owing to the BNIC (Bureau National de l’Interprofession du Cognac).
But even though Armagnac is a small category, Americans have a real and deep attraction for old brandies with a strong history. Also, there is a real trend which is booming for a few years now with the bar and cocktail scene which is growing endlessly, and we sure need to capitalize on this in order to develop the brand, educate the consumers and catch the opportunities offered by this trend.
Marquis de Montesquiou brand has also recently changed the entire packaging of the product with a beautiful decanter developed by Stranger & Stranger which is one the most renowned Packaging Design and Branding Company specializing in alcoholic drinks; It can definitely dynamize the image of the brand Marquis de Montesquiou but one of the categories itself as well. We have the chance to have Marquis de Montesquiou in our portfolio, which is part of the Pernod-Ricard group and which could bring a strong support for the brand building in the United States.
FACC : You’re currently on a VIE contract. For future VIE candidates, can you briefly describe the search for your position and how you secured your offer? What competitive advantage do you believe this experience will afford you, vis a vis professionals who have never worked abroad?
AM: Before this VIE I had worked three and a half years in the Wines & Spirits industry as Export Manager for Saverglass, a glass-making company specialized in producing and decorating the bottles and decanters for Extra Premium Wines & Spirits. I was also lucky enough to closely work with the cognac Brand Bache Gabrielsen - which is part of the BCI portfolio – and that I was representing through a micro-activity I had founded in France in 2016. This way, I have been put in contact with Jean-François Bonneté, the founder of BCI, who was looking for someone to cover the New-York market, especially since Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac joined the portfolio of BCI in May 2019.
This experience is undoubtedly offering me greater skills and knowledge in the Wines & Spirits Industry but also professionally in general. I get to work and evolve on one of the most competitive markets for the Wines & Spirits industry, but also in a complex and broad cultural environment which forces the open-mindedness, humility and resilience.
FACC: BCI is a family-owned and operated company specialized in importing and building successful wine and spirit brands in the United States. Going beyond the primary function of importation, BCI is somewhat of a hybrid model that integrates elements of a consulting or communications agency- working in parallel to build the brands. Is there anything you particularly appreciate about this approach, as it relates to your role?
AM: You actually said it all in the question; This is exactly what I liked with the BCI approach – The fact that we do not only import the brands on the market but we have to build them and write a part of their history on the US market through an educative approach. Most of the partners we represent are family-owned distilleries and wineries which have strong histories to share, in addition to the intrinsic quality of their products so I feel like it is easy to talk about the brands on a daily basis and feel close from their strategies and vision.
FACC: You’ve been to several FACC events, even animating a tasting at the 2019 FACC Foundation Gala. What do you most appreciate about the NY business community?
AM: I have been a member of the FACC for 6 months now and have always enjoyed the proposed events. It is a chance to be part of such an entity that takes care of its members and which strives to constantly propose new events and formulas to gather the community around conferences, special events like the Gala, or just friendly-networking moments to discover and share with other members.
The entire FACC team is always very welcoming, available, open to any new ideas we suggest as a member, and I guess it is a key to build qualitative professional networks.
FACC: After the completion of your VIE, what are your long-term professional goals?
AM: I will for sure continue my journey in the Wines & Spirits industry for which I am deeply passionate and what I know as of today is that I wish I could continue to work in relation with the US market which is absolutely fascinating for its diversity, its capacity to create worldwide trends and its competitiveness.
On a longer-term vision, I feel like I would like to pilot a team and manage strong brand-building or brand-development projects across this country or in an other part of the world like in Europe.
Interested in connecting with Alexandre? Log into the FACC Member Directory to send him a message.