Whiskey spearheads alcohol export growth

Irish alcohol exports increased by 8% in value to €1.45 billion in 2019, up some €137 million on 2018’s figure, again spearheaded by strong growth in Irish whiskey which accounted for 55% of this growth according to Bord Bia’s annual review of 2019 and outlook for 2020 published this morning.


Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture industry's exports reached €13bn in 2019 for the first time.

Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture industry’s exports reached €13bn in 2019 for the first time.

Driven in the US by strategic positioning in the Premium and Super-Premium segments, Irish whiskey exports grew 11% in 2019 to €727 million globally, reports Bord Bia’s Export Performance and Prospects Report 2019/2020. This represents a 370% increase in value from 2010.

The Cream Liqueur sector held firm with overall export sales of 7.9 million cases, this despite the challenges of US tariffs on EU dairy coupled with increased pressure from domestic suppliers in Canada impacting the North American market.

High demand and stocking-forward in the UK resulted in a strong performance for Cider-producers in 2019, with consumption in the UK rising by 11% whilst Beer production – increasingly diverse in both range and markets – enjoyed a 1-2% growth with strengthening demand in Continental Europe, reports Bord Bia.

Gin exports saw growth of 17% to €9 million thanks to its continuing popularity among UK consumers and its central role in “the pervading cocktail culture”. Double-digit export growth is expected in 2020.

Bord Bia states, “In the more niche categories of gin and vodka, there were also good export performances, the former on the strength of sustained popularity of gin in the UK and the latter accounted for by the positioning of Irish offerings in the Premium segment”.

The top five markets for Irish alcoholic product were the US (40% or €676m), the UK, France (with exports up 45% to €86m), Germany (exports up 20% to €84m) and Canada (an important Cream Liqueur and Irish whiskey market where whiskey exports rose 2% to €72m).

“In the Rest of EU markets there was significant growth in a number of key markets, as the value of Irish exports increased by 10% to €418m,” states the report which added that Latvia also remains an important market, although declining 13% in value to €48m.

“Latvia is known to be a point of onward shipping for the Russian market which remains difficult to ship directly to,” states Bord Bia, “Despite this, 2019 saw direct exports of Irish spirits to Russia as some exporters adjusted their export strategies. Values remain very small currently.

“The Netherlands saw strong growth, with exports [of alcoholic & soft drinks] rising 51% to €34m although as with other sectors, the country’s role as a global trading hub means a substantial amount of this was for onward export.”

Irish alcohol products in the Netherlands saw growth of 67% to €29 million.

Japan is the largest Asian market for alcohol exports which rose 9% to €10 million last year.

Exports of non-alcoholic beverages grew 10% to €209m with product shipped to approximately 50 international markets, reports Bord Bia. Water exports grew by 2% to €74m with encouraging growth from premium markets such as Japan, Norway and Iceland.

“In terms of non-alcoholic beverages, the growth in the Low/No alcohol space is presenting early opportunities for Irish exporters outside of the UK.”

The report was launched by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD and reveals a stand-out 2019 performance by Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture industry as exports reached €13bn in 2019 for the first time (compared to 2018’s €12.1bn figure). This is the highest level of exports in Bord Bia’s 25-year history and brings to a close a decade of consistent and extraordinary growth in which food, drink and horticulture exports have grown by 67%, or €5.5bn, since 2010.

Speaking at the report’s launch, Michael Creed said, “Bord Bia’s figures show that food and drink exports have grown by 7% to €13 billion,”

“It’s important to acknowledge too the contribution that Ireland’s farm families have made to this export performance and to recognise the need for the supply chain to deliver a reasonable commercial return for those upon whom the production of high quality consumer products and raw materials depends.

“A diversified approach to increasing our reach within the global marketplace has yielded record levels of growth with a strong performance recorded across most sectors and categories. That said, we face into a global trading environment in 2020 which continues to be marked by volatility and political uncertainty.”

Bord Bia Chief Executive Tara McCarthy added, “2019 was a watershed year for Ireland’s food and drink industry not only in the total value of exports achieved but also in the make-up of their destination. For the first time export levels to continental Europe exceeded exports to the UK.  This result gives further impetus to the market prioritisation work undertaken by industry, DAFM and Bord Bia over recent years.”

Irish food and drink produce is now exported to over 180 countries worldwide.  EU markets accounted for 35% of exports (up 1%), the UK for 34% (down 3%) while international markets (the rest of the world) accounted for 31% (up 2%).

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