Javier Pagés acknowledges that “not even in his dreams” could he imagine that 2021 would yield “such spectacular” business figures. The president of the Cava Regulatory Council does not hide that satisfaction prevails over surprise, because sales grew by 17.3% last year. 252 million bottles were shipped, in 2019 there were 249 million, despite the fact that coronavirus interference marked demand and the appearance of the omicron variant clouded expectations for the Christmas campaign.
“Cava has shown to have a very great resilience,” says Pagés. The question remains to be resolved as to how far the result of the year would have risen if tourism and restaurants had had a smooth campaign. But, exports have underpinned the recovery of an industry that manages to place seven out of every ten bottles it produces on the foreign market. The United Kingdom, traditionally a good buyer, punctured -3.9%, but the fall was offset by the good reception of the bubbles in other markets. Germany, the main consumer, rose 4.2%, Japan 7.9%, Belgium 11.6% and the United States soared 40%. The North American growth was dazzling, says Pagés, who fails to specify the causes that explain the reason for the sudden thirst for cava, beyond placing it in a context of growing fervor for sparkling wines. Despite lower volumes, growth in Austria (65.5%), Brazil (37.6%) and Poland (27.3%) also stands out.
Promoting the good image of cava abroad is a headache for the managers of the Regulatory Council, who seek to make a difference with other sparkling wines of express production and regular quality, such as the popular Italian prosecco.
“More mature” is the consumer of the national market, confesses Pagés. Short-haul sales increased by 19%, reaching 68 million bottles. The channel that showed the greatest impact was the digital channel, with an increase of 17.7% in value and 19.3% in volume, while the food channel continues the upward trend with an increase of 6.1% in value and 5.1% by volume.
Javier Pagés highlights that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has multiplied the uncertainties that the sector was already suffering due to logistical difficulties and the rise in the price of essential products for the production of the base wine. He points out that the increase in energy costs is added to the overpricing of materials such as cardboard, glass or fertilizers, and admits that an increase in the price of bottles of cava is a real possibility: “Companies can bear the costs up to a certain point, but it is normal to think that inflation will come to the price, sooner or later”. He predicts that the erosion of consumption will be a function of how inflation is passed on. “If super-spectacular prices are reached, consumption is going to fall,” he says.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.