The new Association brings together new entrants and existing companies to promote Irish whiskey and to ensure the product is given vital protection going forward.
The Irish whiskey industry has experienced massive growth over the past few years, growing by double-digits and this trend is expected to continue.
Three years ago the island of Ireland had but four distilleries in operation. In the next three to five years that number will grow to over 15 if all the current projects move forward.
Some €200 million had been spent in Midleton while another €40 million had been spent just outside Tullamore.
Some believe that with this growth comes the need for leadership in ensuring that the category maximises its potential and continues to maintain the high quality standards that consumers have come to expect from Irish whiskey.
In launching the IWA, the Minister pointed out that Irish whiskey now formed part of the Food Harvest 2020 plan for growth.
“The Irish whiskey industry lacked a combined vision to deliver whiskey growth across the broad sector which has now been filled by the Irish Whiskey Association,” he stated, “It now has a collective approach to the Irish whiskey industry that’s clear and consistent and with individual companies able to avail of the support and technical knowledge that’s now here for them.
“We’ve a lot of catching up to do particularly versus Scotland,” he continued, alluding to the Scotch whisky industry which had witnessed a growth in value of 90% in the last decade with volumes up by one-third.
With this had come a huge boost in related toursim there.
Furthermore the new generation of Irish distilleries will drive the economy locally while many were also building heritage centres to tell the story around those brands.
“The future of Irish whiskey is around story-telling as well as producing and marketing it in different markets,” he stated, “But we must also sound a cautious note in building this story in a responsible way.”
At today’s launch, the Irish Whiskey Association released statistics about the growing sector:
• Irish whiskey exports have grown by 220% since 2003 and are now valued at €350 million
• In 2003 Irish whiskey made up just over 9% of beverages exports; this has grown to over 28% of our total beverages exports
• Last year, distilleries here exported 6.2 million nine-litre cases of Irish whiskey worldwide and it’s expected that this number will double to 12 million cases by 2020 and double again to 24 million cases by 2030.
• Irish whiskey, which employs 5,000 directly and indirectly, is set to grow to 6,500 by 2025
• Turnover for the industry is almost €400 million, with an annual direct domestic spend of €237 million
• Irish whiskey visitor centres attract over 500,000 tourists every year
• Irish whiskey sells into 77 countries with the US, France, Germany, Russia and the UK accounting for almost 75% of total sales.
“The launch today of the Irish Whiskey Association is a sign of the industry’s shared vision,” said Minister Simon Coveney at today’s launch, “Irish Whiskey is a star of the Irish food and drink sector and I’m proud to be here today as a mark of support for the sector. Export expansion, at least 15 new distillery projects and planned investment of €1 billion over the next 10 years is a significant mark of confidence in our economic future. We can be proud of the quality, craft and heritage which Irish Whiskey epitomises and look forward with excitement to the future of the industry.“
It’s against this backdrop that the industry has come together to form the IWA which has been created to:
- promote the Irish whiskey category in Ireland and internationally, working with the Euroean Commission and Government agencies
- support new market entrants by providing a one-stop-shop of technical requirements for distilling Irish whiskey, information on grants, a mentoring programme and the provision of a website www.irishwhiskeyassociation.ie
- promote the high standards of Irish whiskey by working with the relevant authorities to ensure that the legal protection offered by the Geographic Indication is applied both in Ireland and internationally. This is a legal resource to ensure it’s proactive as a sector, working with the Department of Agriculture
- ensure public policy supports the sustainable growth of the Irish whiskey sector.
Production Director at Irish Distillers Peter Morehead is the all-island Aassociation’s first Chairman and a Vice Chairman will be picked in June.
“Irish whiskey is on a comeback,” he stated at the launch, “In 1996 Irsh whiskey was selling 1.6 million cases worldwide with one brand approaching the one million sales mark. In 2013, Irish whiskey was selling six million cases.
“Back in the 18th Century there were no fewer than 88 licensed distilleries where 40 years ago there were only two. Now there are 18 distilleries involved in the sector.”
In outlining the potential of Irish whiksey he also pointed out that the Scotch market was some 14 times the size of the Irish whiskey market and now comprises 25% of the UK’s food & drink exports.
The IWA will represent all players in the Irish whiskey market, from new entrants through to the large players here. Any individual, limited company, corporation or Irish firm being a distiller, blender, owner of a proprietary brand(s), broker or exporter of Irish whiskey, if engaged in the wholesale Irish whiskey trade, is eligible to be a member.
It’s hoped that in Year One:
* the IWA can establish itself as a one-stop-shop for new entrants and existing players within the category. In particular this will involve building a website, equipping it with the necessary information (legal, technical, sources of funding, excise etc) and maintaining it to ensure relevance.
* the IWA can establish an effective category monitoring and enforcement protocol with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, DEFRA/HMRC in Northern Ireland and the verification body.
* complete and lodge the technical file for Irish whiskey with the EC
* begin scoping a promotional programme to secure EU funding to promote the Irish Whiskey Geographical Indicator
* form a strategy for the sustainable promotion and development of the Irish Whiskey category (in association with Government).