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Irish drinks exports rise 19% in 2021

Exports of Irish alcoholic drinks grew by 19% last year, led by the strong rebound of Irish whiskey, according to a new report.

Irish drinks
Irish drinks exports reached €1.62 billion (US$1.85bn) last year

Bord Bia’s Exports Performance and Prospects 2021 – 2022 report showed that Irish drinks exports reached €1.62 billion (US$1.85bn) last year.

In 2020, exports of Irish alcoholic drinks fell by 19% due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and US tariffs.

Irish whiskey exports recovered strongly over the past year, growing by a quarter to €855 million (US$980m). The category’s growth was due to the premiumisation trend, the report noted. More than half (55%) of Irish whiskey exports were to North America.

Irish cream liqueurs exports rose by 19% to €367m (US$420m), while gin recorded a 38% increase, albeit from a lower base. Almost 40% of cream liqueur exports went to the US.

Irish beer exports were hit by on-trade closures, increasing by 3%, while cider exports climbed by 50% in 2021.

North America was the biggest market for Irish alcohol, making up 51% of the country’s total drinks exports. Exports to the UK were up by a fifth to an estimated €255m (US$292m), representing 8% growth compared to 2019.

Trade body Drinks Ireland welcomed the new figures, which showed the resilience of the industry after a challenging year.

Patricia Callan, director of Drinks Ireland, said: “The new figures illustrate the resilience of the Irish drinks industry, which demonstrated strong recovery last year after the difficulties of 2020, with overall exports returning to 2019 levels. The prospects for the drinks sector are broadly positive for 2022, with recovery expected to continue in the spirits sector, despite challenges in relation to inflation across the supply chain. A recovery in beer exports is also anticipated.

“Irish drinks producers continue to demonstrate remarkable innovation in response to trends in export markets. The report highlights the move towards premiumisation, as consumers drink ‘less but better’, and Ireland’s quality drinks products fit very well into this niche. There has also been an increase in e-commerce delivery in key markets, as well as a growth in at home cocktail culture.”

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