No, Nigeria is not the world’s biggest champagne consumer after France

Do Nigerians pop nearly as much bubbly as the French themselves? What started out as a forecast on new champagne consumption has taken on a life of its own.

UPDATE: In 2017, Nigeria was the world's 27th largest champagne importer, with 593,097 bottles imported. South Africa was the top importer on the continent.

On what do Africa’s super-wealthy spend their money? Much the same things that rich people around the world do, according to BBC Africa.

Starting at a “luxury and wealth” summit in Johannesburg, reporter Milton Nkosi took viewers on a tour of a sports car dealership and a posh property.

One of the interviews was with the head of the Southern Africa Luxury Association, Silvana Bottega. She said: “In the sector of champagne, it is very well-documented that Nigeria has now become the second largest consumer of champagne after France.”

Africa’s most populous country overtook South Africa as the continent’s largest economy in 2014, but do Nigerians pop nearly as much bubbly as the French themselves?

Origin of the claim – most likely a forecast

A sales attendant shows a bottle of champagne to a customer at a roadside shop in Lagos in April 2013. Photo: AFP/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
A sales attendant shows a bottle of champagne to a customer at a roadside shop in Lagos in April 2013. Photo: AFP/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Bottega pointed Africa Check to news reports published in 2013 in The Guardian and the Japan Times. But these articles said that Nigeria is expected to show the second fastest growth in new champagne consumption during the period 2011 to 2016, and not that it was the second largest consumer after France.

When Africa Check questioned Bottega about this, she said: “I have sent you the links. Have you read them? You can put those two articles down as the source of my claim,” and hung up.

The forecast in the two articles was attributed to Euromonitor International, a market research company based in the UK. Their website contains a blog piece by “senior alcoholic drinks” analyst, Spiros Malandrakis.

Titled “Nigerian Chic and European Doldrums”, Malandrakis described a talk he gave at a champagne conference in February 2012: “It was the last slide that did it. Looking at the list of the markets expected to post the strongest actual gains in total champagne volumes over 2011-2016, most of the usual suspects were there. However, what did come as a surprise was Nigeria’s second place in these global rankings, and the audience’s disbelief was palpable.”

Malandrakis told Africa Check that they based their forecasts on expected oil revenues in emerging markets in West Africa. At the time of analysis, when the oil industry was thriving, the company predicted that the wealth gained from these revenues would drive consumption of status symbols, such as champagne.

“Somehow that [forecast] turned into ‘second biggest market’,” the Wall Street Journal’s West Africa correspondent, Drew Hinshaw, tweeted at BBC Africa.

Certainly by 2014, media institutions like Business Today in the US and Mail & Guardian Africa reported that champagne consumption, or sales, in Nigeria was the second largest in the world. City Press then wrote earlier this year: “Nigeria is fast becoming the second champagne capital in the world, trailing only France – which actually produces the bubbly.”

So where does Nigeria rank?

Nigerians do love French champagne, to be certain. Data shows Nigeria ranks just outside the world’s top 20, depending on the measure used.

Looking at imports, Nigeria was the 23rd largest champagne importer in the world in 2014. The country imported 768,131 bottles, Brigitte Batonnet told Africa Check. She is a researcher at the Comité Champagne, a trade association that represents growers and producers in France.

The top three countries on their list were the UK (around 34 million bottles), the US (19 million bottles) and Germany (around 13 million bottles).

The UK and US have maintained their top two positions for the past several years, Batonnet said. “[Nigeria] has never appeared in the top 10. But Nigeria has been, for some years now, the [top] importer of champagne in Africa.”

Counting bottles sold, Nigeria came in 22nd in 2014, a market analyst at the International Wine and Spirits Research, a private research company, told Africa Check. Daniel Mettyear said his company has recorded 1.1 million bottles of champagne sold in Nigeria – compared to 162 million bottles in France.

Actual sales could be higher, though. “A lot of exports are under-declared in order to avoid taxes, particularly with luxury goods such as champagne,” Mettyear said.

Conclusion: Nigeria is Africa’s top champagne importer, but not world’s second-biggest consumer

The claim that Nigeria is the world’s second-largest consumer of French champagne is “one of those imperishable evergreen stories”, Howard French, associate professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, tweeted.

French said so in response to the claim resurfacing in a BBC Africa report about luxury spending on the continent. It’s most likely a distortion of a forecast that new champagne consumption would grow the fastest in Nigeria, aside from France, for the period 2011 to 2016.

Nigeria is the top importer in Africa, though. But its recorded sales of 1.1 million bottles last year is dwarfed by that of France – where 162 million bottles were sold.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated that 303 million bottles of champagne was sold in France in 2014. The correct figure is 162 million. We have corrected the report and apologise for the error.

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