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Single Malt Players Maintain Growth Despite Tariff Headwinds

May 28, 2020

While total Scotch whisky shipments to the U.S. fell 7% last year to under 10 million 9-liter cases, single malts achieved their 29th consecutive annual gain in 2019. Despite a 25% increase in tariffs imposed on the category in the U.S. last October, imports of single malt Scotch whisky increased 12% last year, cresting the 2-million-case mark for the first time, according to recently released data from the Scotch Whisky Association.

Single malts have been the main growth driver for Scotch whisky in the U.S. for decades, and are projected to account for nearly a quarter of category volume and almost half of value by the end of this year, according to Impact Databank. Meanwhile, shipments of blended Scotch to the U.S. fell 11% last year in volume terms, and the final quarter of 2019 saw a 25% decline in total Scotch exports to the U.S. as the single malt tariffs took effect.

“Similar to other spirits categories, single malts have seen increased consumption due to Covid-19, with a shift to larger formats as on-trade purchases move to at-home consumption,” says Michael Giardina, director of Glenfiddich at William Grant & Sons. “However, the rate of Covid-19-driven growth is lower for single malts versus other categories as tariff price increases have negatively impacted category demand. Both Glenfiddich and The Balvenie are showing growth year-to-date, aligning with category trends.”

Pernod Ricard’s The Glenlivet remains the top-selling single malt brand in the U.S. at nearly half-a-million cases, after an impressive 9.8% gain last year. Its fastest-growing variant was Founders Reserve, which soared 26% in 2019. Edrington’s The Macallan is by far the highest-priced single malt brand on average among the largest-selling labels, and after a modest 2.5% volume increase last year, solidified its leading position among all single malts in value terms, according to Impact Databank.

In fact, all eight of the largest-selling single malt brands in the U.S. registered volume gains last year, and their momentum has carried over into 2020, albeit partially from stocking up related to Covid-19. In control states, single malt Scotch increased 5% year-to-date through April, compared with 2% growth for blended Scotch. Meanwhile, in the 13 weeks through April 18, The Glenlivet (+24%), Glenfiddich (+1%), Glenmorangie (+14%), The Balvenie (+7%), and Laphroaig (+21%) all posted volume increases in Nielsen channels.—Natalia Razzo & Daniel Marsteller

Leading Single Malt Scotch Whisky Brands in the U.S. (thousands of 9-liter case depletions)
Rank Brand Importer 2018 2019 Percent
1 The Glenlivet Pernod Ricard USA 429 471 9.8%
2 The Macallan Edrington Americas 261 268 2.5%
3 Glenfiddich William Grant & Sons USA 206 210 2.2%
4 Glenmorangie Moët Hennessy USA 118 120 1.3%
5 The Balvenie William Grant & Sons USA 110 120 9.2%
6 Laphroaig Beam Suntory 73 77 5.5%
7 Oban Diageo North America 61 71 17.0%
8 Lagavulin Diageo North America 55 65 19.5%
Total Top Eight 1,312 1,401 6.8%
1 Based on unrounded data

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2020

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