Overall, Irish beverage exports are estimated to have increased marginally in 2014 to stand at €1.21 billion.
Indeed the global beverages market showed further growth with increased demand for premium alcoholic beverages. This growth helped offset ongoing subdued demand in many developed markets arising from the sluggish economic environment.
Key growth regions include Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa.
The UK – the largest single market for Irish beverage exports, accounting for around 32% of the total, performed reasonably well, reports Bord Bia. Strong sales of waters, whiskey and juices more than offset reduced beer, cream liqueur and cider exports. For the entire year exports to the UK are estimated to have increased 3% to €385 million.
Exports to other European markets had a challenging year with trade levels back by around 5% to €265 million. However beverage exports to France showed growth of 20% to €40 million.
Shipments to international markets (46% of total and worth €560 million) were negatively affected by slower exports of cream liqueurs. However increased trade was reported to Canada (up 12% to €65 million), the US (up 2% to €360 million), Africa (up 2% to €20 million) and Australia (up 18% to €17 million), which more than offset reduced exports to Asia and the Middle East. This left international exports 3% higher at almost €560 million.
Whiskey, cream liqueurs and beer account for 75% of our beverage exports, water 10%, cider 5% and juices 5%. Ireland’s top five beverage export markets comprise the UK, the US, Canada, Germany and France.
Overall there has been a 60% rise in whiskey sales (including Bushmills) since 2009 with the product now accounting for €365 million, up from €141 million (with current exports of seven million nine-litre cases). Nine distilleries are currently active here with another eight onstream to open by the end of this year.
“Irish whiskey is experiencing double-digit growth in 40 countries around the world,” explained the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Mr Simon Coveney who attended the launch of the report.
The global market for cream liqueurs showed some growth in 2014 but an ongoing change in production distribution (where the cream for Baileys Irish Cream is sourced entirely in RoI but much of the final product is processed in Northern Ireland) saw the value of exports from the RoI itself decline.
Beer exports are estimated to have ‘eased’ slightly, driven by lower shipments to the UK. However a number of emerging markets showed good growth.
It was a challenging year for Irish cider exports reflecting a competitive UK market. However exports to other markets in Europe, Asia and North America showed some impressive growth levels, reports Bord Bia.
Exports of non-alcoholic beverages were boosted by strong sales of waters and juices with exports of mineral water to the UK again the strongest performer.
The outlook for Irish beverage exports in 2015 continues to be broadly positive helped by an anticipated further rise in whiskey sales, the ongoing development of emerging markets and the ever-increasing range of craft beers and spirits being produced in Ireland.
There were less than 10 microbreweries in 2013 which grew to over 50 last year.
Premium brands are currently “at a high demand” when compared to economically-priced products because of the increase in disposable income of consumers in many developing regions, so the ability to tap into this ‘premium’ demand is key.
“The market position of the Irish industry and the resilience of the global beverage sector bode well for Irish exports in 2015,” states the report.
Overall, Ireland’s food and beverage exports grew by 4% to €10.4 billion, up from 2013’s €10.1 billion figure.
This represents an additional €500 million on 2013 or €3.2 billion onto the value of our total exports in food and drink over the last five years, pointed out the Minister with 31% of our exports now traded outside the Eurozone.
“Our Ex-EU exports were less than 25% when I first became Minister,” he added.
Russia remained an area with considerable potential for Irish exports but for political reasons this remains on hold at the moment, he stated.
Bord Bia’s Chief Executive Aidan Cotter, who presented the report, pointed out that at a time when exports here have risen 5%, the Agri Food & Drinks sector had risen 45%.