Gin to win in 2018

Exports of Irish gin look set to rise significantly according to the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland which released its outlook for 2018 recently. 

In Ireland, the growing demand for gin has been matched by an explosion in the number of Irish gin producers, reports the outlook, with over 30 Irish gin brands now on the market. Many of these producers are also exporting; exports of Irish gin more than trebling during 2017.

“While 2017 marked a breakthrough in term of exports for Irish gin producers, 2018 is set to see Irish gin going global, with exports expected to grow significantly in the US, Canadian, UK and German markets,” notes the report.

CSO figures for the first 10 months of last year show that exports of Irish gin more than trebled from a value of €306,000 to €1.02million.

“Gin exports from Ireland have historically been very low and last year was the first year that there was anything really noteworthy,” said ABFI Director Patricia Callan, “There has been a remarkable surge in the popularity of gin in Ireland in recent years. It is now the fastest-growing spirit among Irish consumers. In response to this demand, Irish producers have developed a strong domestic market and will continue to put an increased focus on exports in the coming years.”


Irish Whiskey Renaissance will bear fruit

Production of Irish whiskey continues to grow. Since 2014, the number of operational Irish whiskey distilleries has grown from four to 18, with 16 more planned. Overall, production of Irish whiskey is forecast to double between 2015 and 2020 and double again in the following decade.

However, by law, Irish whiskey must be aged for at least three years and one day which inserts a lag phase between costly distillation, storage and sale.

“2018 will see a number of recent distilleries releasing their own distilled stock for the first time” states the report, “meaning the Irish whiskey category will get even more exciting and diverse for consumers looking to try new, high-quality Irish whiskey products.”


Beer drinkers – new flavours and more choice

According to Bord Bia, there are now over 100 craft beer brands in the country, states the report.

The most notable trend in the beer sector has been the introduction of new flavours in international markets, catering to the changing taste preferences of consumers.

But another trend has also started to emerge in Europe and the US – growing demand for No Alcohol/Low Alcohol Beers. These trends have already started to hit Ireland and ABFI anticipates they’ll continue in 2018.

Already, there’s been an influx of new products to the market in Ireland.


Export powerhouse

Irish drinks exports rose by 8% last year to €1.5 billion.

The vast majority of Irish breweries and distilleries source their barley and malt locally, with the Irish drinks industry spending €1 billion on grains and dairy every year. It’s anticipated that export growth, particularly of Irish whiskey, will lead to further increased demand for Irish grain.

Whiskey manufacturing has a strong relationship with the tourism industry, so growth in the Irish whiskey industry will continue to positively benefit tourism in 2018. The number of visitors to Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres has increased by 25% since 2015 and Irish beer-related tourist attractions are also set to draw huge numbers in 2018.

2017 was another record-breaking year for the Guinness Storehouse, for example, with more than 1.7 million guests. Additionally, a number of small craft breweries like Carlow Brewing and Wicklow Wolf are now offering brewery tours.

With about 100 craft breweries now in Ireland, more and more breweries are likely to become tourist attractions.

However while there are strong prospects in 2018 for the industry, ABFI has also raised serious concerns about the draconian and disproportionate advertising and labelling proposals in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, warning that it could hinder future growth.

As part of the Bill, the Government proposes to introduce health warnings on all alcohol products sold in the Republic of Ireland. This includes a cancer warning on alcohol products which ABFI says would put huge additional costs on producers. This increased cost would be particularly harmful for small local producers and new entrants. Such a measure would also cause serious reputational damage to Ireland’s premium drinks products.

“The drinks industry is an important Irish industry, with innovation at its core. However, we’re concerned about the unintended negative consequences of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill,” said Patricia Callan, “We’ve seen a number of new players and new products hit the market in recent years, which has supported growth. The Alcohol Bill could slow down or even reverse this growth as it includes proposals that would act as a barrier to entry and a barrier to innovation.

“Furthermore, the Bill is being introduced at a tumultuous time for Irish business, with 2018 due to be a pivotal year in the Brexit negotiations.

“We believe there’s scope for reasonable amendments on advertising and labelling, which would protect competition, innovation and investment in the industry, as well as choice for consumers,” she concluded.


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