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U.S. Whiskey Growth Drives Beam Suntory’s First Quarter

May 8, 2017

Solid progress within the booming American whiskey category drove Beam Suntory to a mid-single-digit sales increase in the U.S. market during the first quarter of 2017. The company highlighted strong growth for Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and its super-premium Bourbon stable—including Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Booker’s and others—as leading the way during the period.

The steady first quarter growth followed an impressive performance across Beam Suntory’s whiskey portfolio in calendar 2016. According to Impact Databank, Jim Beam was up 8.6% to 4.6 million cases (including flavors) last year in the U.S., while Maker’s Mark rose 9% to 1.5 million cases and Knob Creek grew 9% to 380,000 cases.

In a recent interview with SND, Suntory Holdings president and CEO Takeshi Niinami detailed the company’s plans to invest $1 billion in its American whiskey operations over the next five years. “The investments include both capital expenditures and operating costs, to support an expanding Bourbon business. We think American whiskey will continue to expand, particularly on the premium side,” Niinami said. “So we’re boosting capacity at Beam, just as we did at Maker’s Mark. Over the next five years, including capital expenditures, barrel purchases, grains and labor, we will thus invest well over $1 billion to make Bourbon in Kentucky.”

Across Beam Suntory’s global business, sales advanced by low single digits over the first three months of the year, with the company’s EMEA and Southeast Asia regions showing strong increases.

Overall, Suntory Holdings Ltd.’s beverage alcohol sales—also including its international wine and beer divisions in addition to Beam Suntory—were roughly flat at ¥217 billion ($1.9B) for the quarter, while operating profit grew 6% to ¥16 billion ($142M). —Daniel Marsteller

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