Cognac sales ahead of Chinese New Year have driven Remy Cointreau to a strong sales increase in the first nine months of its fiscal year. 

Net sales for the nine months to the end of December rose by 18% on the same period of last year, to EUR821m (US$1.05bn), Remy Cointreau said today (19 January). The group was buoyed by a 30% increase in sales of Rémy Martin Cognac, to EUR475.5m, ahead of Chinese New Year.

Excluding currency changes, Rémy Martin sales jumped by almost 37%, underlining the importance of the firm's premium Cognac business in China to its overall corporate health. In the third quarter, the brand's net sales leapt by 55%. However, the group also reported "strong momentum" for premium Cognac in the US, as well as good showings in Russia and Travel Retail.

Demand for Rémy Martin is expected to drive the French distiller to a double-digit increased in full-year operating profits, excluding currency and one-off items. But, the group cautioned that its fourth quarter net sales will likely show decline, primarily due to a tough comparison with the previous year, which saw Chinese New Year fall later in the firm's financial calendar.

In its other divisions, Remy reported a 6% sales increase for its spirits and liqueurs brands, to EUR166m. Mount Gay Rum and Cointreau led the growth, while Metaxa recovered from a weak base in Greece. 

There was also a strong performance from Champagne in Europe in the run-up to Christmas, as well as gains in the group's Scotch whisky distribution business. Remy continues to distribute the Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck Champagne brands, despite having sold them in 2011 to privately-owned EPI.

In the third quarter, group net sales rose by 30% to EUR346.1m.

For the figures, click here.