Ongoing growth in whiskey combined with stronger exports of non-alcoholic beverages together helped offset reduced trade in cider, beer and cream liqueurs.
“Despite the ongoing competitive pressures exports to the United Kingdom performed reasonably well in 2013,” stated Bord Bia in its annual Performance & Prospects report.
Bord Bia estimates that beverage exports to the UK remained largely unchanged at just under €400 million with the UK still the largest single market for Irish beverage exports, accounting for around 32% of the total.
Exports to ‘Continental EU’ were estimated at €290 million or 23% of total beverage exports while those to ‘International’ markets are estimated to have decline by around 2% to €560 million.
Whiskey exports led the way again last year recording a 13% increase overall through further strong growth in the US. Other markets such as Europe, Russia, Asia and Australia also recorded strong growth.
Cream liqueurs recorded a decline in value of around 3% in 2013 with reduced export values reported to most key markets, especially in the UK.
Exports of beers showed a modest decline of 3% too last year while cider exports faced a challenging year with weak volumes in the UK in the early part of the year while distributional changes in the US and a slower trade to Australia and Spain negatively affected export values.
However exports are reported to have picked up in the second half of 2013, reported Bord Bia.
Exports of mineral water grew by 22% last year with exports to the UK being the strongest performer. New innovations and the emergence of new customers and markets have helped sales.
Despite the drop in export values, the outlook for Irish beverage exports in 2014 continues to be broadly positive helped by an anticipated further rise in whiskey sales, the ongoing development of emerging markets and an anticipated return to growth for some key categories.
The ability of the sector to continue to develop new markets and innovative product solutions for developed markets will be critical, believes Bord Bia.
At the launch of the report, its Chief Executive Aidan Cotter pointed out that the January to October 2013 figures for alcoholic beverages grew by 3.8%, outpacing all the other export sectors.
Further evidence of global growth in the beverages market in 2013 was evident with the rise in travel retail sales and a positive sales impact of trends such as premiumisation and enjoyment helped boost the value of the sector. This helped offset ongoing subdued demand in many developed markets arising from the sluggish economic environment.
Overall, exports of food and drink hit “record levels” in 2013 approaching €10 billion for the first time which represented a 9% increase on 2012 values and 40% (or €3 billion) more than in 2009.
2013 represented the fourth year of sustained growth according to Aidan Cotter who also pointed out that some thee billion consumers around the world will join the middle classes over the next 20 years.
Ireland is now the largest exporter of beef in the Northern Hemisphere, he stated.
Also at the launch of the report the Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine Simon Coveney TD commented, “Export values of almost €10 million are really impressive and demonstrate the clear opportunity and benefit of investing in a sector with proven resilience, a significant domestic economic footprint and strong ability to grow.
“With increasing demand from more affluent consumers in key world markets, there’s little doubt that the €12 billion export target set out in the industry-led strategy for the agri sector Food Harvest 2020 is well in sight”.
The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland pointed out that this report reiterated the importance of the Irish drinks industry and is urging the Government to do everything in its power to support the industry so it can continue to build on current success, identify new markets for products and find innovative product solutions which will in turn help to foster further economic recovery.
ABFI Director Kathryn D’Arcy commented, “With some of the most celebrated and internationally-recognised brands available in over 100 markets abroad produced here, the Irish drinks industry plays a crucial role in supporting the Irish economy and promoting Ireland abroad. Bord Bia’s report today confirms this position, highlighting the major contribution that it makes to Irish exports.
“One point to note from today’s report is the importance of Irish whiskey to our export performance, with strong growth recorded in the United States, Asia, Russia, Europe and Australia. This sector, which has experienced somewhat of a renaissance in the past few years, will serve continued importance in 2014. As such, our members are investing in infrastructure to keep up with global demand, with more than €300 million committed investment in whiskey distilling in this country in the last two years.
“The Irish drinks industry, however, remains an industry under pressure, with excise on alcohol among the highest in Europe. I would urge the Government to support this important sector of the national economy in every way possible so that export growth can be fostered effectively.”