Cream Liqueur recovery continues

Exports of Irish cream liqueur rose in 2018 as did sales in the Irish market with the category continuing to recover from a 'lost decade’ in 2017, according to Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland.

Globally, 7.5 million cases of Irish cream liqueur were sold in 2017, up 2.9% from 2016 and preliminary interim export stats for 2018 suggest there was export growth of approximately 8% for this year, driven by strong export growth to the US.

Irish cream liqueur is one of the EU’s top five spirits export categories with the top five markets for Irish cream liqueur in 2017 being the US (where 1.9 million cases were sold) followed by the UK, Canada, Germany and Spain.

100,000 cases were sold here at home in 2017, up 5.6% on 2016 and interim retail statistics for 2018 suggest continued sustained growth of approximately 7% in the Irish off-trade.

Irish cream liqueur is protected by a Geographical Indication similar to Champagne (which must be produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France) or Roquefort cheese (which must be made from sheep’s milk and aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the south of France) and Parma ham (which must be made in Italy’s Parma region).

Irish cream liqueur must be made on the island of Ireland, contain Irish dairy cream and Irish whiskey in accordance with an approved technical file which dictates how it must be produced.

“The category has made an impressive comeback in the last two years,” commented ABFI Director Patricia Callan, “This has been driven in part by innovation in the category, with producers experimenting with new flavours like salted caramel and white chocolate.

“Some producers have also been successful in positioning cream liqueurs as a ‘treat’ or dessert ingredient as opposed to being simply a spirit liqueur. Others have successfully positioned their products as a cocktail or coffee component.

“As we look ahead to 2019, we anticipate that growth in the category will continue. With this in mind, the continued protection of Irish cream liqueurs in export markets through the GI will be vitally important.

“The GI protects the authenticity and high standards of Irish cream liqueur and provides a legal device to protect the name ‘Irish Cream’ in Ireland and globally. For example, the Irish Spirits Association is currently working with the Irish Government and EU Commission to invoke GI protection in Canada to tackle numerous incidences of Canadian-produced liqueurs being passed-off as ‘Irish Cream’.”

The Irish cream liqueur sector makes an important contribution to the Irish economy, purchasing 316 million litres of fresh cream from Irish farmers every year, sourced from 46,000 dairy cows.



The leading global markets in 2017 were (IWSR):


    (12 bottle) Cases
1 United States 1,939,300
2 United Kingdom 1,054,000
3 Canada 652,300
4 Germany 483,400
5 Spain 311,100
6 Italy 289,000
7 Australia 239,000
8 Mexico 201,000
9 France 156,000
10 Russia 112,000
  Global travel retail 641,800






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