Irish whiskey still driving beverage exports

Irish whiskey had another record year of export growth with export values increasing by €45 million to €623 million according to Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects 2018/2019 report, published this morning.

The US market for Irish whiskey grew by over 10% last year as irish whiskey exports continue to dominate the Beverage Export category according to Bord Bia which adds that “emerging markets are also contributing to the growth in Irish whiskey, with Australia and the South Pacific markets reflecting value growth of 35% and Central and South America showing value growth of more than 42%, both from small but significant bases”.

Irish whiskey’s growth in EU markets sustained double digits at 16%.

Volume growth in the Beverages sector is largely driven by this continued double-digit demand for Irish whiskey in many markets and a sustained change in fortunes for the Irish cream liqueur category.

Consumption levels for Irish whiskey are expected to exceed the projected 10 million cases figure by the end of 2018 for the first time.

Overall Irish beverage exports were valued at €1.5 billion, representing a year-on-year decline of 1%.

Whiskey comprised 42% of Ireland’s beverage exports total.

And the report points out that Irish gin is emerging as a category for the international consumer with a volume increase of 24% in 2018 “albeit from a low base”.

The gin export category is set to be worth more than €5 million in 2018 with Bord Bia stating that, “double-digit growth is recorded in the United Kingdom,

South Africa, Italy and Germany and notable growth of 8% is reflected in consumption of Irish gin in Spain. The Irish category is young and is in a position to build its exports at present, but it is hoped to capture some of that growth in 2019–20”.


Irish cream liqueur

Irish cream liqueurs enjoyed a strong performance driven by additional private label contracts and new product development with overall growth of 9% in value, achieving sales of over 7.9m cases in 2018, up from 7.2m in 2017. Irish Cream Liqueur exports were up 5% to €342 million.

This beverage category now comprises 23% of total beverage exports with the UK, Africa and Australia reflecting respective volume growths of 36%, nearly 30% and more than 100% (albeit from a low base).



Beer exports comprised 18% of the total but exports declined in value by 2% in 2018 to €268m.

According to the report, “During the same period there was an overall increase in volume of beer exports of 9%, with a particularly positive performance in exports to the EU.”

Beer exports to the EU rose by over 20% to over €70 million last year with the Continent now accounting for more than 30% of our beer exports by value.

However beer exports to the US declined by 16% to €56 million while exports to Asia witnessed a 20% decline to just over €5 million.



According to the report, “Cider had a challenging time despite remarkably promising summer weather in its major markets of Ireland and the UK. It lost ground in both value and volume at -20% and -16% respectively. Consumer trends toward healthy living and an increasingly negative attitude to sugar in the context of the introduction of the sugar tax are understood to be having an impact on the category”.



With juices taking up 6% and waters 5%, “Performance in the alcohol-free beverages, waters and juice sector has been heavily influenced by consumer trends in health and convenience. Irish exports of juices performed extremely strongly in 2018. Exports to the UK market are now valued at €45m, up more than 19% and at €27m to the continental EU, a rise of over 35%”.


Overall, Irish beverage exports enjoyed a 4% increase in volumes but suffered a 1% decrease in values in 2018, going from €1.497 billion in 2017 to €1.482 million last year.

The top markets for Irish beverages were the US, the UK, Canada, Germany and France.

The total value of Irish food, drink and horticulture exports reached €12.1 billion in 2018, down just 4% from a record high in 2017 despite a year of unprecedented global volatility, involving political uncertainty, extreme weather events and continuing currency fluctuations impacting competitiveness.

Launching the report, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Mr Michael Creed said that last year marked the highest-ever volume of Irish exports (up 2%), representing the ninth consecutive year of volume growth. “Market and trade insights suggest that the global demand for Irish food and drink will remain positive in 2019, but of course the potential impact of Brexit is a very significant risk,” said the Minister, “In circumstances such as these, it is more important than ever that we redouble our efforts to extend our reach in the global marketplace.”

Bord Bia Chief Executive Tara McCarthy pointed out that the 2018 figure for overall food & drink exports exceeded export values of €12 billion for a second year running and reached new record levels in terms of volume.

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