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Issue 86 - There is a light

Whisky Magazine Issue 86
February 2010


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There is a light

It was 10 years of progress for distilled spirits in America. Yes, the recession that closed out the decade walloped consumers globally, but the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States' findings presented at its annual industry review recently were encouraging. “There's a light at the end of the tunnel, we just don't know how long the tunnel is,” said Peter Cressey, president and CEO of DISCUS, America's national trade association.

During the past decade, distilled spirits' revenues grew 66 per cent to $18 billion, a rather staggering figure given that the 1990s closed at $11.2 billion.

Annual growth over the past decade averaged 5.2 per cent, except from 2008 to 2009, when revenues were nearly unchanged, largely because of people trading down. According to David Ozgo, DISCUS's chief economist, consumers historically return to trading up after a recession. “More growth is preferred, but given the state of the economy, that's a fairly good result,” he said.

Last year's revenue was flat despite spirits' volume growth being slightly up, which is a result of spirits gaining market share of the alcohol business.

Compared to beer and wine, spirits are at the highest point since the mid-1980s.

As a general trend, super-premium spirits grew in volume at a gangbuster pace in 2008, but volume actually fell by 5.1 per cent in 2009. It was the value brands that drove the spirits industry's growth last year. Whisky, Ozgo told me, “fell nicely into this pattern.” In...

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