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‘Banner year’ for US spirits sales in 2017

Spirits experienced record sales in the US last year, hitting US$26.2 billion, as the industry continued to swipe market share from beer.

Premiumisation bolstered sales of spirits in the US last year

According to trade body the Distilled Spirits Council, sales of both both domestic and imported spirits were up 4% in the year, while joint volumes rose 2.6% to 226m cases.

Spirits now have 36.6% of the total beverage alcohol market share, marking the eighth consecutive year that the category has gained market share against beer.

Growth was most apparent at the super-premium end of the pricing spectrum, with value sales of higher priced spirits up 6.1% and volume sales up 4.9%.

“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 premiumisation across categories,” said Distilled Spirits Council president and CEO Kraig R Naasz.

“The US distilled spirits market is the second most valuable in the world, and we continue to promote consumer-friendly policies that expand responsible access to our products.”

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.

Rye whiskey was the fastest growing spirit category of 2017, with growth of 16.2% to US$175m, and 900,000 cases. The Distilled Spirits Council also noted that mezcal sales have grown from 50,000 cases in 2009 to approximately 360,000 cases in 2017.

Value sales growth of Scotch whisky were markedly slower – at +0.4% for blends and +1.1% for single malts. Volume sales for both categories declined, by -3.3% and -1.2% respectively.

Rum was the only spirits category to see value sales declines in 2017, with a -0.3% loss. The category’s volume sales were also down by -0.4%.

Vodka, the largest spirit category in the US, saw a steady volume increase of +2.2% to 71.3m cases and value growth of 3% to US$6.2bn.

In terms of exports, US spirits shipments increased 14.3% to US$1.63bn thanks to both international enthusiasm for American whiskey and favourable exchange rates for the dollar.

The UK was the top market for US spirits exports and saw rapid growth of 45.6% to US$177.9m. All other key markets – including Germany, Brazil, France and Spain – experienced double-digit value gains.

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