Premium brands drive US spirits sales above beer

21st December, 2017 by Owen Bellwood

Spirit sales in the US increased faster than wine and beer over the last 12 months, the latest Nielsen CGA report has shown.

On-premise sales of spirits have grown faster than those of wine and beer in 2017

The Nielsen figures cover US spending on alcohol in both the on- and off-trade setting between October 2016 and October 2017.

The report found that spirits were the ‘growth leader’ over that period, with sales increasing faster than wine and beer.

The report suggested this growth could be as a result of a trade-up from consumers to premium spirits, as spirits in this category have seen faster growth than lower-priced brands.

Continued growth has pushed the overall value of spirits just ahead of beer, making it the largest adult beverage category in dollar sales in on-premise channels.

The Nielsen report shows spirits sales were valued at US$42.6 billion during this period, while beer sales stood at US$42.4bn.

Scott Elliott, svp at Nielsen CGA, said: “In this modern, experience-driven on-premise environment, premiumisation is evident in all categories, however no category highlights this more than spirits.”

He continued: “High-end spirits now account for 55% of total spirits volume and 62% of dollar sales. Premium and ultra-premium whisky and Tequila alone have contributed 65% (or US$631m) of total spirits growth.”

In the off-premise setting, Nielsen reports that growth rates are decelerating, but total sales still outperform those in the on-premise.

Mirroring on-premise trends, more premium and higher priced spirits categories continue to outperform those at the mid to lower ends, suggesting that consumers are “drinking better and not necessarily drinking more”.

Danny Brager, svp of Beverage Alcohol at Nielsen, said: “As more consumers shop and buy in different ways and in different places, discretionary categories like adult beverages have to work even harder to be as easily accessible and prominent in the newer channels and retailers.”

Irish whiskey, Cognac and Tequila have been driving off-premise spirits sales – each category has seen growth of 11.4%, 12.7% and 7.3% respectively.

In addition, the report found that ultra-premium American whiskey and single malt Scotch whisky have made rapid gains.

A report published in November also found that many consumers are trading up to super-premium spirit brands.

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