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Tito’s overtakes Smirnoff as top-selling spirit in US

Texas-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka became the best-selling spirit in the US in 2019, knocking Smirnoff off the top spot for the first time in more than a decade.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka became the best-selling spirit in the US last year

Preliminary figures from the IWSR US Beverage Alcohol Review (US BAR) database showed Diageo’s Smirnoff vodka was no longer the top-selling spirit in the US, with the top spot now occupied by Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Tito’s grew by more than 20% in volume in 2019. Vodka remains the largest spirit category by volume in the country.

Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey was the third best-selling spirit brand in the US last year, followed by Sazerac’s cinnamon-flavoured whisky liqueur Fireball and Diageo’s Canadian whisky Crown Royal.

The IWSR noted that total alcohol consumption in the US grew 0.3% by volume in 2019, reversing the decline it registered in 2018. By value, total alcohol consumption reached US$167 billion ­­– an increase of 2.5%.

Spirits consumption was up 2.3% in volume, led by growth in mezcal (40%), Japanese whisky (23.1%), Irish whiskey (8.6%), Tequila (9.3%), US whiskey (5.5%) and Cognac (4%).

Wine consumption in the US fell for the first time in 25 years, with a 0.9% volume drop in 2019.

Consumption of beer also decreased for the fourth year in a row, falling by 2.3%, while cider declined by 3.8%.

The ready-to-drink (RTD) category is a US$8bn industry in the US, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. Consumption of RTDs posted volume growth of 49.7% last year, attributed mainly to the “tremendous popularity” of hard seltzers, which represent 43% of the total RTD sector.

The Hard Seltzer Report from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis showed the volume of hard seltzers in the US is currently around 82.5m nine-litre cases and is forecast to triple by 2023.

The canned cocktail segment is also “achieving high levels of growth” due to “being convenient, flavourful, and lower in calories and sugar”.

Fight for consumption occasions intensifies

“The beverage alcohol industry in the US continued to innovate in 2019, especially in the ready-to-drink category, as the fight for consumption occasions intensified across all categories, something we fully expect to see in 2020 as well,” said Brandy Rand, chief operating officer for the Americas at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

“It’s also interesting to note that the value increase of beverage alcohol in the US continues to outpace volume growth, a clear indicator that US consumers are willing to pay for more premium products.”

The IWSR’s US BAR database also looked at the growing e-commerce market for alcohol in the country. The channel is expected to hit US$3bn in 2019, led by wine, the IWSR noted.

The IWSR’s recent report, A Blueprint for Success in the E-commerce Space for Alcoholic Beverages, forecasts that by 2024 alcohol e-commerce in the US will reach 101.2m nine-litre cases, with a projected value of US$13.4bn.

“Online shopping in the US is a US$755bn industry, and though alcohol represents a relatively small portion of that today, it’s expected to explode in the coming years,” said Adam Rogers, North America research director at IWSR.

“Clearly, beverage alcohol brands and retailers should have strong e-commerce strategies in place to profit from this important shift in consumer purchase preference.”

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