Spirits a leading agri-food export category

The Irish Spirits Association has launched its second Irish spirits industry and market report which paints a promising picture for the industry.

The Spirits category now forms one of Ireland’s leading agri-food export categories, responsible for €916.3 million, a 13.8% increase last year and forming part of a total €1.32 billion in export figure for spirits from the island of Ireland.

The report was launched in Doheny & Nesbitt’s pub in Dublin last night by the Chairperson of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine Pat Deering TD.

Irish Whiskey remains the fastest-growing spirits category in the world, with volume up 10.6% to 9.69 million cases from 8.71 million cases in 2016-2017, while Irish Cream Liqueur grew 5.6% here in Ireland and 2.9% internationally last year, confirming Irish Cream as one of the EU’s top spirits exports.

Gin sales here were up 47% in 2017 while sales of Premium Irish whiskey grew by 40%.

Global sales of Ireland’s three Geographical Indication protected spirits – Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream and Poitín – grew by 7.4% totalling 17.2 million cases or 207 million bottles last year.

The US maintains its position as Ireland’s number one export destination for spirits followed by the UK, Canada, Germany and France.

The ISA would like to see a ‘zero-tariff’ global trading environment for all spirits. With the US the biggest market for Irish whiskey at 4.1 million cases, Global Travel Retail was the next-biggest market for it at 659,000 cases before Ireland at 548,000.

The report also notes that US whiskey has overtaken Scotch to become Ireland’s second-favourite whiskey category.


Domestic spirits market

At the launch of the report ISA Chair Aoife Clarke referred to the increasing popularity of gin (now holding 11.2% of the spirits market) by pointing out that the first five months of 2018 had seen gin sales triple and that the ISA was now seeking an Irish Standard for gin.

She also noted that while an excise exemption allowance had been created for the small brewer, no similar relief existed for the small distiller.

Sales of spirits in Ireland increased by 4.6% in volume last year to 2.25 million cases with 76% of it purchased via the off-trade channel but 55% of the €916.3 million value (up 13.8%) deriving from the on-trade.

“Irish spirits are now one of Ireland’s leading agri-food export categories” said Patricia Callan, Director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, “and one of the fastest-growing categories. Irish whiskey and Cream Liqueur are now being sold in 140 markets worldwide and our industry is proud of our contribution to the Irish economy, to Irish agriculture and to achieving the Governments’ FoodWise 2025 exports targets.

“However, there are significant risks to Irish spirits exports on a number of fronts, including Brexit and the threat of tariffs in our key export markets, particularly the US,” she continued, “The Irish Spirits Association has actively lobbied for the de-escalation of the EU-US trade dispute and we welcome the commitment by Presidents Juncker & Trump to find a compromise.

“Another threat is the disproportionate and excessive provisions contained within the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. Ireland can’t have it both ways on trade,” she said, “We cannot call for other countries to drop tariffs while we’re bringing in our own trade barriers such as single-country health warning labels. This move will act as a significant trade barrier to smaller spirits producers seeking to export to Ireland and diminish choice for Irish consumers.”

In addressing those present at the launch of the report, Minister Pat Deering promised to do all he could to influence the Minister for Health to arrive at a common-sense solution to the labelling and advertising problem.

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