Irish spirits exports soar by 17% in 2022 to highest level ever

 The value of Irish spirits exports grew by 17% to a record level of €1.455 billion last year, with the US remaining by far the top destination, according to a new report by Ibec trade association Drinks Ireland | Spirits.

The WSA report suggests that the spirits sector is set for further recovery and growth in the years ahead, with global sales expected to rise by 30.7% until 2025.

The Irish Spirits Market Report 2022 shows that spirits sales in the domestic market were up by 6% last year and by 10% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, driven by the consumer trend of premiumisation.

Overall, global sales of Ireland’s three protected Geographic Indication (GI) spirits (Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream and Poitín) grew in volume terms by 6% in 2022.

The report highlights that Irish Whiskey’s spectacular global growth continued with export sales reaching 15.245 million cases in 2022. The Irish Cream success story continued also as it drew even closer to the 10 million case benchmark in sales during 2022.

Quality and international reputation are critical to the success of Irish whiskey, Irish cream and Irish poitín exports globally and their protection under the Geographical Indication (GI) regime and tackling imitator products remains a priority for Drinks Ireland.

Consumer demand for premium products drives domestic spirits sales

Domestically, vodka remains Ireland’s favourite spirits drink, followed by Irish whiskey and gin respectively.

The report shows gin’s meteoric rise in the last ten years slowed in 2022, but that slowdown is driven by “standard” gin brand sales, with “premium” brands increasing by 15% in 2022. While less gin was sold, consumers are focused on quality and new tastes.

In line with their successes in export markets, Irish Whiskey and Irish Cream continued their impressive growth at home too, with sales up by almost 11% and over 8% respectively.

An emerging category in recent years has been Ready to Drink spirit drinks. With the on-trade recovering last year, sales of these products in Ireland slowed, down by 0.3%, but this is after a growth of 14% in 2021 and 26% in 2020.

Growth of demand for No-Alcohol brands continues

While no alcohol beer is leading the growth of the low and no category here, low and no spirits have emerged in Ireland in recent years, growing by 1122% between 2019 and 2022, albeit from a very low base.

Bryan Fallon Chair of Drinks Ireland | Spirits, and managing director of Heaven Hill Ireland, brand owners of Carolan’s Irish Cream liqueur and Irish Mist Honey liqueur, said: “The spirits industry is of significant importance to the economic, social, and cultural fabric of the whole Island of Ireland, rural and urban. It’s positive to see growth at home and in our key established and emerging export markets in 2022, after a number of challenging years.

The spirits industry stands proudly at the heart of Ireland’s incredible agri-food offering and should be protected and fostered, something that’s not always reflected in policy.

There were a number of key challenges in 2022, most notably the impact of inflation on raw materials, which put huge pressure on the industry and continues to do so. The sector also continues to be burdened with the second highest overall excise tax on drinks products in the EU, with spirits having the third highest rates behind Finland and Sweden.”

Cormac Healy, director of Drinks Ireland, said: “We are seeing the continuing trend of premiumisation in the drinks industry and the culture around drinking in Ireland is evolving, with consumers increasingly choosing quality over quantity. Irish spirits will continue to rise to the occasion, delivering on the unmatched quality and authenticity consumers crave.

The export performance of Irish spirits has been exceptional, with export value reaching almost €1.5 billion last year. New markets are emerging and its wonderful to see a growing awareness and appreciation of the unmatched quality of Irish spirits throughout the world.”

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