US whiskey makers toast strong sales

Supplier sales of distilled spirits in the U.S market rose by 4%, or $1 billion, last year, to hit $26.2 billion, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Sales of American whiskey were up 8.1% to US$3.4bn; Tequila was up 9.9% to US$2.7bn; Cognac was up 13.8% to US$1.6bn; and Irish whiskey was up 12.8% to US$897m.

"The spirits sector had a banner year in 2017, driven by consumer confidence in the US economy, product innovations that adult consumers want, and a fascination with premiumization across categories", Council President & CEO Kraig R. Naasz said in a statement.

It says combined US revenues for bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey rose 8.1 percent to $3.4 billion in 2017. Volumes rose by 2.6% to 226 million cases, a rise of 5.8 million cases from the prior year. Those whiskeys typically age the longest and fetch the highest prices.

David Ozgo, Chief Economist for the Spirits Council, attributes the growth of high-end spirits in part to millennial shoppers whom he says "continue to gravitate toward high-end and super-premium spirits products". Volume sales for both categories declined, by -3.3% and -1.2% respectively.

Rye whiskey is a small portion of the American whiskey category, but its volumes surged 16.2 per cent a year ago to 900,000 cases, the report said. The growth was driven by rye's popularity in cocktails.

Volumes rose 18.3 percent, while revenues were up 18 percent.

In terms of exports, USA spirits shipments increased 14.3% to US$1.63bn thanks to both global enthusiasm for American whiskey and favourable exchange rates for the dollar. That would be the fifth time in six years that American whiskey exports topped $1 billion.

Growth in sales of distilled spirits brought its market share to 36.6 percent - while wine held steady at 17.3 percent, the trade group, also known as Discus, said in its annual report.

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