Spirits high as Irish spirits industry shows vibrant growth

ISA launches first-ever industry and market report on Irish spirits

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20 October 2017 | 0

The Irish spirits industry is undergoing vibrant growth, with exports increasing substantially in recent years, according to a new report released by the Irish Spirits Association. The report is the first-ever industry and market report on Irish spirits, and shows that the number of licensed spirits producers in Ireland doubled between 2014 and 2016. 

According to the report, the majority of spirits consumed in Ireland (56%) are produced in Ireland. A key trend in the Irish market has been the remarkable surge in the popularity of gin. Gin is the fastest growing spirits category among Irish consumers, growing by 31.6% in 2016. The Irish Spirits Association recently established an Irish gin working group to provide a strong voice for this rapidly-growing sector. Meanwhile, vodka remains Ireland’s most popular spirits drink, but sales have fallen by a quarter in the past decade.

Overall consumption falls

While the report notes that the Irish market is dynamic and rapidly-changing, the overall consumption of spirits in Ireland has fallen by 19.2% over the past decade. While consumption of alcohol falls at home, the exports of Irish spirits are growing at an increasing rate. The value of Irish spirits exports increased by 6.1% in 2016,to €805 million. Overall, the value of exports increased by 29 per cent between 2011 and 2016, up from €624.27 million to €805.33 million. Exports are set to grow by even more in 2017, with Irish gin exports expected to make a breakthrough.

Meanwhile, global sales of Ireland’s GI spirits – Irish whiskey, Irish cream and poitín – totalled nearly 16 million cases or 200 million bottles in 2016, according to the report. Geographic Indicators or GI protection means these three spirits can only be made on the island of Ireland in line with an EU approved technical file. GI’s protect the integrity and quality of these spirits categories and the investment being made in production and employment on the island of Ireland.

Whiskey renaissance

The report found that Ireland’s whiskey renaissance is going from strength to strength, with sales up 11.3 per cent in 2016. Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category in the world, with sales of premium Irish whiskey up by 135% in the last five years.  The number of distilleries operating in Ireland has grown from just four a few years ago to 18 now. Irish whiskey exports are continuing to grow rapidly in 2017.

The report also notes that, following a lost decade for Irish cream liquor, 2016 saw a return to growth.

What’s more, the Irish spirits industry is a major contributor to the Irish economy. Members of the Irish Spirits Association employ over 1,550 people in spirits production, sales and tourism, paying €88 million in wages.

Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

William Lavelle, head of the ISA described the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill as a “major threat”, claiming its “draconian restrictions will make it hard for new players to enter the market, as they won’t be able to market their products.

“It will damage competition, deter innovation and it will threaten future export growth,” Lavelle said. “We want to work to Government to achieve a more balanced approach that will effectively address concerns while preserving investment, competition and export growth.”

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