Ireland’s top drinks export markets revealed

Ireland’s top five markets for drinks exports in 2017 were the UK, Germany, France, Canada and the US as Irish beverage exports rose 8% last year to €1.5 billion.

In addition to the 135 international markets it already supplies, Ireland’s drinks industry is now eyeing-up new opportunities in 2018 according to the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland which released an analysis of the Central Statistics Office’s recently-published 2017 Trade Statistics report.

According to the analysis overall EU sales rose to €327 million, up 4% on 2016 with steady growth in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain. Exports to North America rose to €650m last year, driven by the growing popularity of Irish whiskey as well as a strong performance from Irish cream liqueurs there.

Irish cream liqueur exports are also expected to grow in 2018, after the product recovered from a ‘lost decade’ in 2017 and exported 100 million bottles globally.

The Japanese market was the best performing of the Asian countries in 2017 with Irish beverage sales rising by 30% to €9 million. Elsewhere, Russia recorded solid growth to €14m in 2017 while sales to Africa also increased with Irish beer proving popular in Nigeria. Some of the bigger players in the market like Irish Distillers are also exporting to non-typical markets including Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Korea and Cameroon.

In terms of categories, some 40% of beer produced in Ireland is exported making us the eighth biggest exporter of beer in the EU.

Irish craft beer is now exporting to Hong Kong, Singapore, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Australia.

“Our Irish craft beers are now exporting to over 35 countries and we’re experiencing double-digit growth year-on-year,” observed Seamus O’Hara Founder and Chief Executive of Carlow Brewing Company, “Currently the biggest markets for O’Hara’s products are France, Italy and the USA. Canada has become a big market for our Traditional Irish Stout and Germany performed exceptionally well for us in 2017. In the last 12 months we’ve also seen new markets open up in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, Serbia, Bulgaria and Ukraine. We’ve also just sent beer to Australia for the first time.”


Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey exports to the US (Irish whiskey’s largest export market) increased by 16.7% last year, with a 15.7% increase in exports to Canada and a 9.2% increase in exports across the 27 EU markets.

As the world’s fastest-growing spirits category Irish whiskey now represents a third of all Irish drinks exports by value with nearly 120 million bottles (10 million cases) sold last year. This is worth over €600 million in exports from Ireland, up 20% from 2016.

“These figures confirm the sustained double-digit export growth in the Irish whiskey category,’ commented Irish Whiskey Association Head William Lavelle, “Irish whiskey export growth is delivering for the Irish economy, creating jobs throughout the country and benefiting Irish barley farmers.”

And he concluded that the fastest-growing spirits category in the world is showing no signs of abatement as more growth in more markets is targeted.

According to the latest CSO statistics, Irish whiskey exports grew by 14.2% in 2017, a year that also saw a breakthrough for Irish gin with 30 brands now on the market.


Other spirits

2018 is set to see Irish gin going global, believes ABFI, with exports expected to grow significantly in the US, Canada, the UK and Germany.

The Founder of Glendalough Distillery Brian Fagan, now exports his whiskey, gin and poitín to over 40 countries around the globe and forecasts that 80% of his sales will be export-driven in 2018.

“The US is our largest export market with Canada also enjoying rapid growth for both Irish whiskey and more recently premium Irish gin,” he stated. “Russia has also become a significant market for us over the past couple of years. Our Wild Botanical Gin is extremely popular in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge and Gerry’s of Soho in London.”


Premium Irish

While this analysis confirms the distance Ireland’s quality products reach based on Bord Bia research, consumers around the world are continuing to choose premium Irish products and the association with Ireland is proving powerful, believes ABFI Director Patricia Callan.

However, she continued to warn that challenges lie ahead in relation to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

“Small producers and new entrants that aren’t as established as Carlow Brewing Company and Glendalough Distillery need to be able to grow in the home market before exporting” she pointed out, “and the Government should not prevent this by creating an uncompetitive market.”



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