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Teeling: Irish whiskey offers ‘entry point’ for US consumers

US consumers see Irish whiskey as an “easier entry point” into brown spirits, viewing Scotch as a “pipe and slippers” category, says Teeling Whiskey Company’s Stephen Teeling.

US consumers see Irish whiskey as an “easier entry point” into brown spirits, says Stephen Teeling

Irish whiskey has witnessed a remarkable boom in recent years, and nowhere has it evolved more than in the US market, where it’s currently the fastest growing spirits category.

Stephen Teeling, sales and marketing director of The Teeling Whiskey Company, believes the revival of the category has been guided by growth in this “powerhouse” market, where the spirit offers an “entry point” into brown spirits.

He said:”All of a sudden Irish whiskey is a totally different proposition in the US than it was 20 years ago, and it’s seen as a much easier entry point into brown spirits than say, Scotch, which has a legacy so successful that a lot of people’s parents are the demographic who drank it. They say in America that Irish whiskey and Bourbon are more social at the bar – Scotch is more pipe and slippers beside the fire.”

In the US last year Irish whiskey saw 16.1% volume growth to 3.2m cases – marking a six-fold volume increase over 10 years. After successfully shaking off its “Irish coffee stigma”, The Teeling Whiskey Company believes Irish whiskey is primed for success, particularly in the premium category.

“In the next two years I think around 50% of the world’s Irish whiskey market is going to be in the US,” said Teeling, “a lot of that growth will come from the market leader, but as the category grows, the segmentation – or the premium side – will also expand.

“The US is the shop window to the world, so if you can make your whiskey stylish in a mature market place like that, it will hub and spoke into other places.

“Overall, the fundamentals are really, really strong. We’re seeing it ourselves – in the US, ours is the fastest rotating whiskey – it’s not just going on shelf, people are drinking it! In fact the Americans are saying the velocity is the fastest they’ve ever seen from an Irish whiskey.”

One reason for the brand’s success, is, according to Teeling, rooted in the lack of historic preconceptions of the brand.

“Because we don’t have any fixed legacy about what we were, we can almost mould our own future – we’re not constrained by anything,” he said.

“A lot of the bigger brands will always try and present themselves as something else, but you can’t change history, and you can’t change what you were. You can rebrand and try and reposition, but you just can’t be everything to everyone.”

Looking to the future, Teeling describes an “exciting” five-year plan that sees the firm maintain its position as a premium whiskey producer.

He added: “We’ve got targets for five years that are exciting for us, but if we were to present that to a brand manager at a multinational, they’d say, ‘where’s the volume?’

“We’re in a lucky position that we’re not chasing volume, we’re not having to go to supermarkets – we don’t want to be in places that we’re not meant to be in. People aren’t going to supermarkets to discover new brands, they’re going to buy a brand they know at a good price.

“We’re trying to do the right things are the start, so as the category continues to grow and we grow with it, we haven’t sold our soul.”

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