Irish whiskey shares in US spirits boom

Another good year was had by Irish whiskey in the US last year with it becoming the third-fastest growing spirits category, 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.


High End Premium Irish Whiskeys grew by 847,000 cases last year.

High End Premium Irish Whiskeys grew by 847,000 cases last year.

Irish whiskey also took third place in terms of fastest-growing volume with a 17.8% increase, equivalent to growth of 891,000 cases to top 5.9 million US case sales.

“The single year volume increase for Irish whiskey sales in the US in 2021 is greater than the cumulative increase in Scotch sales over the past 10 years,” pointed out the Irish Whiskey Association recently.

What’s also encouraging is that High End Premium Irish Whiskeys grew by 847,000 cases last year.

The US is the second-largest market in the world for spirits and the spirits industry there supports around 1.7 million jobs through the production, distribution and sale of distilled spirits.


Marketplace trends

The US Spirits market is itself experiencing its fastest growth for two decades as revenue from US-made spirits grew by $3.8 billion in 2021 to $35.8 billion and volumes grew by 24.7 million nine-litre cases to 291 million cases.

The number of distilleries there has also grown from around 50 in 2005 to over 2,300 last year.

According to the DISCUS report, “Over the past 20 years, the spirit industry’s average annual growth was 5.5% compared to 7.3% in the past five years”.

Spirits sales accounted for over 41% of US alcohol industry revenues and 38% of US volumes last year.

But as the report warns, “Only 19% of small businesses in food service and hospitality are operating at pre-pandemic levels”.

However online sales are flourishing as the pandemic changed buying behaviours, with the report citing the IWSR finding that two-thirds of US shoppers who buy alcohol online made their first purchase during the pandemic.

And at $6.1 billion, online alcohol sales last year accounted for 4% of all off-premise sales in the US.

But this could also be due to the unstable nature of on-trade recovery there, of the local restaurants and bars that are such critical sales channels for generating awareness of local craft brands.


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