This is the single largest investment Bord Bia has made in the promotion of Irish spirits to date.
The US remains one of the most important markets for Irish alcohol with exports totalling €657 million last year representing 51% of all Irish food and drink exports which were valued at €1.3 billion in 2021.
Notable 2021 performers were Irish whiskey at €441million, up 19% from €370 million in 2020 but down €80 million on the 2019 export figure of €521 million.
Beer exports were valued at €56 million, up 84% from €30 million in 2020.
Last year Irish whiskey became the third-fastest growing spirits category in the US, growing by 16.3% or by $195 million according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the US’s 2021 Economic Briefing published earlier this year with high-end Premium Irish Whiskeys growing by 847,000 cases.
The Spirit of Ireland
Bord Bia’s The Spirit of Ireland campaign is an educational programme aimed at US customer-facing staff selling Irish spirits in bars and off-licences. The €750,000 trade communications campaign comprises virtual reality tours of 20 of Ireland’s distilleries, featuring interviews with master distillers and barrel coopers so that US staff can learn first-hand from brand-owners here what makes their product unique and distinctive.
The campaign also offers a unique sensory experience using ‘scratch and sniff’ cards to smell and experience barley fields and barrel houses, all aimed at creating an in-depth understanding of Irish spirits.
The campaign will be rolled out across 17 US liquor control boards, the government agencies that regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages at a wholesale level in specific states.
“Irish spirits are now exported to over 130 countries around the world and experiencing a renaissance,” said the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue TD in officially launching the Spirit of Ireland drinks trade communication campaign with the Ohio Liquor Control Commission, “From Irish whiskey to Irish gin and traditional Irish poitín to Irish cream liqueur, they form an evolving, innovative sector that’s on a fast growth trajectory in the US. Bord Bia’s new drinks trade communication campaign in the US demonstrates Ireland’s commitment to the US market, build the awareness of this growing spirits category and positively influence commercial success.”
Exports of Irish alcohol to the US have been strong in recent years – in 2021 Irish beverage exports there were valued at €657 million, up 17% from €561 million in 2020. That recovery was most robust in Irish whiskey and cream liqueur exports.
“US consumers appreciate the quality and taste of Irish spirits and Bord Bia is undertaking this activity to ensure the position of the spirits category is protected and strengthened,” added Henry Horkan, Bord Bia’s North America Director, speaking at the launch event, “Attendees learn the history, the renaissance and the future of Irish spirits allowing them to share this story widely both with their colleagues and consumers to inform, educate and overall deliver increased commercial value on behalf of the Irish drink sector. We believe this education programme will lead to more opportunities for Irish distilleries and for brands to increase their market presence in North America and gain preference amongst consumers.”
He also pointed to the growing trend of Premiumisation in the sector.
“Irish spirits have made a remarkable recovery since the pandemic and continue to grow year-by-year in the US. Over half of all Irish drinks exports are destined for the US, so there has never been a more opportune time to launch this trade programme and it’s the first time the Irish distilling sector has collectively come together to showcase its industry to a worldwide trade audience of buyers, customer-facing store personnel and influential stakeholders.
“The single most important current trend in the global spirits industry today is Premiumisation and The Spirit of Ireland campaign will provide a unique opportunity for industry professionals in US retail and food service outlets to hear from some of Ireland’s most renowned industry innovators across all categories including Irish whiskey, which is the fastest-growing spirits category in the world.”
Last February saw Bord Bia successfully deliver one pilot programme for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. This included 75 participants comprising managers of the state-controlled liquor stores.
While being officially launched in Ohio as part of the trade mission, The Spirit of Ireland will be further rolled out within key control state markets for Irish alcohol in the US and also in Canada over the course of 2022 and into 2023, building longevity and deepening programme awareness.
With 20 fully operational distilleries included as part of its virtual distillery tour, this is considered Phase One of a commitment to have all of Ireland’s Origin Green-verified distilleries included in the programme.
A further 10 distilleries will be included in Bord Bia’s virtual tour during the course of 2022, with others added as they commence production with product available for export.
Participants will have the opportunity to virtually tour 20 Irish distilleries through virtual reality headsets including:
BallyKeefe Distillery Powerscourt Distillery
Blacks of Kinsale Roe and Co Distillery
Blackwater Distillery The Shed Distillery
Boann Distillery Skellig Six 8
Inis Cleire Slane Distillery
Clonakilty Distillery Sliabh Liag Distillery
Dingle Distillery Teeling Distillery
Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard Tipperary Distillery
JJ Corry Tullamore DEW Distillery
Killarney Brewing Company Lough Gill Distillery
For more information on Spirit of Ireland visit: