The distilled spirits industry saw its 20th consecutive year of volume growth, rising 2.1% in 2017 to 227.7 million nine-liter cases. According to the Beverage Information Group’s 2018 Liquor Handbook, consumers are spending more and drinking more—an increase of 6.7 million cases over the previous year. The ongoing interest in high-end and super-premium products across the spirits segments, combined with continued confidence in the U.S. economy, helped fuel the growth.
What’s driving the premiumization trend? Consumers today have more opportunities to expand their knowledge of all beverage alcohol categories. They can explore their increasing options with the help of brand ambassador programs, experiential events/tastings and the bartending/mixologist community. Unique cocktails and flavor pairings created by industry experts help guide consumers in their beverage selection process and encourage them to new things.
At the category level, interest in brown spirits—especially straights and bourbons—continues to grow. Brand heritage and authenticity increasingly drive purchasing behavior in the whiskey category. Domestic whiskey brands have successfully expanded their core consumer base while also attracting new customers with flavored expressions. Straight American Whiskey continued its roll, expanding 6% to 22.5 million cases. Blended American Whiskey increased 1.3% to 5.3 million cases.
The Tequila, Cognac and Irish Whiskey categories also posted significant gains in 2017. Tequila was up by 6.1% for a total of 17.3 million cases. The Brandy and Cognac category grew 6.8% in 2017, reaching 13.5 million cases. Irish and Japanese Whiskey combined increased 12.2% for a total of 4.1 million cases.