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Top 10 fastest growing US spirits

With product innovation and consumer fascination in premiumisation driving sales in the States, we count down the 10 fastest growing US spirits categories.

Liquor shelf: Which are the top 10 fastest growing US spirits categories

As reported by The Spirits Business on Tuesday, the US market saw spirits volumes increase 1.9% to 206 million cases, while supplier revenue grew 4.4% to US$22bn.

The annual economic report by the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) detailed how a global whisky renaissance has driven overall spirits sales in the country. In fact, whisky sales grew at the fastest rate in 2013 since the 1960s.

Just one category out of the 13 counted by Discus failed to see any growth in 2013, in a year when spirits increased its market share by 0.3%.

Sales of gin declined so much in the value and super-premium ends of the category that overall volume was pushed down by 3.8% to 10.3m cases.

In its report, Discus records volume and value growth figures for 13 spirits categories, including: blended whiskey, Bourbon & Tennessee whiskey, Canadian whisky, blended Scotch, single malt Scotch, Irish whiskey, vodka, rum, Tequila, gin, Brandy & Cognac, cordials and cocktails.

In the following pages, we run through the 10 fastest growing US spirits categories by volume, as reported by Discus.

10. Vodka

Global Vodka-volume

Despite the innovation from seemingly endless innovation from vodka brands, the overall category slowed its growth from 4% in 2012 to just 1.1% in 2013, shifting 65.8m cases.

While Discus claims it hasn’t seen a slowdown in flavoured vodka sales, these figures coupled with other research indicates America’s largest spirits category may be suffering from consumer fatigue.

While consumers have been steadily premiumising their purchasing choices over the last few years, Discus’ figures show the notion may be waning, with super-premium brands’ volume declining 0.4%. The minor drop in sales is most striking when compared to the 10% volume growth achieved by the sector in 2012.

The largest amount of growth in the vodka category came from the high-end premium sector, which maintained a steady growth rate of 3.2%. The premium sector slowed growth from 5.7% in 2012 to 2.4% in 2013.

Signs that consumers are trading up continue to shine through the fall in volume of value brands, which declined 0.6%.

9. Cognac and Brandy


The Cognac and brandy category has maintained relatively steady growth over the last two years, with 1.2% volume growth in both 2012 and 2013 to 11.1m cases in the latter year.

The bulk of growth, as in latter years, has come from the super-premium sector, occupied by brands such as Hennessy, Courvoisier, Rémy Martin and Martell. US hip-hop and rap stars’ fascination with high-end Cognac brands seems to show no signs of waning, helping to drive 7.1% growth for the sector in 2013.

Sales of high-end premium brands, the category’s second-largest price sector, slowed in the year to 2.6m cases, representing a 2.2% volume growth off the back of a 4.2% increase in 2012.

The category’s value end meanwhile grew 0.1%, while its premium sector grew 1.5%.

8. Cocktails


The pre-mixed cocktail, or RTD category rebounded from a 6.4% decline in 2012 to achieve 1.3% growth in 2013.

Consumer appreciation of convenience and increased innovation drove growth at the value end of the category, which increased by 5.9%.

Premium brands however declined by 0.9%, a vast improvement on the -9.4% fall felt in 2012.

7. Blended Scotch

Scotch Whisky Association

Blended Scotch bounced back from its 0.4% volume decline in 2012 to achieve growth of 2% in 2013, driven by astounding sales of super-premium brands.

The sector built on the previous years’ 27.9% growth to achieve a 47.5% increase in 2013, building a market share of 335,000 cases.

In an obvious case of premiumisation, the volume of value blended Scotch declined by 7.1%, allowing the high-end premium sector to become the second largest of the four at 2.2m cases.

Premium blended Scotch meanwhile grew 3.8% to 3.03m cases.

6. Canadian whisky

Whisky study

Canadian whisky had an exciting year, adding over 200,000 cases to its market share, a percentage growth increase of 2.9%.

The majority of that growth was driven by the high-end premium sector, which increased by 61.5% in 2013, from 150,000 cases to 242,000.

Super-premium Canadian whisky grew by 8.1% while premium brands grew by 1.5%.

Value brands, which form the bulk of the category with 8.7m cases, declined by a marginal 0.3%.

5. Tequila


The Tequila category dramatically increased its growth in 2013, driven by the popularity of premium (9.2%) and super-premium brands (9.8%).

The overall category grew by 6.6% to 13.1m cases, an increase of 700,000 cases in the year.

While high-end premium brands also grew by 4%, the value end of the category declined by 0.4%, perhaps a sign of consumers shifting towards more quality, 100% agave brands.

4. Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey


America’s love for their national spirit did not wane in 2013, with sales increasing by almost 1m cases (6.8%) to 18m cases.

The largest area of growth was at the super-premium end (up 21.1%), where more brands are increasingly innovating to give consumers a ladder of expressions.

All four price categories saw growth in the year, with high-end premium up 8.2%, value up 7.5% and premium up 1.3%.

3. Single malt Scotch


While premium single malt Scotch failed to see any growth at all, both the high-end and super-premium sectors drove an overall volume increase for the category up 11.6% to 1.77m cases.

Demand for high-end premium malts gained pace on 2012’s volumes, while growth for super-premium brands slowed down somewhat, from 19.6% in 2012 to 14.8% in 2013.

2. Blended whiskey


The blended whiskey category really only occupies the premium and value end of the spectrum, but accounts for 6.1m case sales a year. The overall category grew by a mammoth 14.3%, although Discus figures show a decline of 2.9% of value brands and an unshifting premium sector.

1. Irish whiskey


The darling of the US spirits scene right now, Irish whiskey has rapidly increased in demand despite a limited number of brands on the market.

Overall category growth slowed since 2012 figures, from 22.5% to 17.5%, although the category added some 400,000 cases during the last year.

The majority of growth was in the high-end premium sector (up 20.2%), which accounted for 300,000 cases alone, while the super-premium end grew by a modest 10,000 cases (5.8%).

The Irish whiskey category is expected to continue its rapid rise over the next 12 months as companies invest heavily in the category, introducing further brands to the market.

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