Bord Bia used the opportunity to inform US trade and retail customers how Ireland`s investment in consumer insight, routes to market and the Origin Green sustainability programme, can deliver benefits for their business.
Irish beverage exports to the US grew to over €500 million last year and as part of the mission, a trade showcase in Chicago saw 25 Irish drinks exporters engaging with Binny’s Beverage Depot – the largest drinks retailer in the Mid-West – and other on-trade customers from the region.
“The USA is the most important market for Irish alcohol beverages, amounting to €514 million or over half our total food and beverage exports here,” said Minister Michael Creed of the importance of international markets in Ireland`s food and drink export strategy with Brexit negotiations now having begun.
“It’s the destination for almost 45% of Irish whiskey, the fastest-growing spirits brand globally with exports of 3.7 million cases. The 2016 figure represents an increase of 8.5% on the previous year and an increase of 47% over the last five years. Ireland was a key player in the whiskey business of the US up to the early part of the last century and lost ground for a variety of reasons.”
Tara McCarthy said that its consumer and market insight highlighted the US as a priority destination for Irish drinks given its size and appetite for new flavours.
She said the breadth and depth of the Irish product range in Binny’s Beverage Depot was proof of how far the industry had come in such a relatively short time period.
“We’ve invested over 1,000 hours in research over the last three years to appreciate the evolving US consumer tastes,” she stated, “Bord Bia’s research identified three key areas of focus for Irish whiskey to ensure success namely native personality, maturity and flavour complexity. We’ve worked with over 20 Irish companies in the past three years to meet these demands through consumer insight and branding as well as market research and trade shows.
“Bord Bia has also partnered with these companies to get `feet on the street` in the US market through our talent development programmes.
“Bord Bia will continue to target key buyers with the aim of bringing 10 to our Marketplace trade event in 2018 to meet with Irish suppliers and provide them with guided itineraries to ensure that they feel the full impact of our sustainable production system.”
During a visit to Binny’s the Minister and Tara McCarthy met with Brett Pontoni, the company’s Purchasing Director, who’s a keen supporter of Ireland’s beverage industry, having attended Bord Bia’s Marketplace event in 2015.
“I’m delighted with the response of US consumers to the breadth and depth of Irish drinks we stock,” commented Brett on the growth of Irish whiskey in the US, “New brands from Ireland are building an enthusiastic following by offering a new taste and are seen as different and independent. Bord Bia`s assistance to companies in telling their individual stories and providing resources on the ground is building on Ireland`s already renowned reputation for alcohol production.
“Being able to tell a story about sustainable production through the Origin Green programme appeals to millennials, who’re key to the future growth of the sector.”
According to the International Wines & Spirits Record Irish whiskey is ‘perceived as a trade-up’ from other whiskies in the market.
The IWSR Global Trends Report cites the range of new product launches and brand line extensions as having helped to encourage greater exploration of the category. Continued investment in new distilleries, trademarks changing hands and updates to packaging are all also contributing to the growth.
Irish beverages in the US
Irish whiskey posted growth of 14.6% in US ‘control states’ – the 18 US states that still control the sasle of alcohol by controlling product listing and/or distirubtion and or by owning the retail stores themselves – last year according to the May issue of Shankens Impact newsletter.
Furthermore, Ireland continues to enjoy the privilege of being the only national exhibitor at the National Beverage Alcohol Control Association’s annual conference where Bord Bia hosts an Ireland stand showcasing the current Irish newcomers each year.
As a result of this exposure, again many of the same successful Irish brands are now stocked in the high value control states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, Oregon, Ohio and North Carolina.