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Irish Whiskey On Track To Reach 5-Million-Case Milestone In The U.S.

June 17, 2020

According to Impact Databank, Irish whiskey remained the single fastest-growing segment of the U.S. spirits market in 2019, with an 8% increase to 4.63 million 9-liter case depletions. Pernod Ricard-owned Jameson dominates the category with an 80% market share, but the ranks of its competitors are growing, among them Tullamore Dew (William Grant & Sons), Bushmills (Proximo), Proper No. Twelve (Eire Born Spirits/Proximo), Slane (Brown-Forman), Teeling (Bacardi), and Roe & Co. (Diageo). Proper No. Twelve has been a standout lately, surging more than 200% last year to 124,000 cases. Even amid the pandemic, Irish whiskey is on pace for its 24th consecutive annual volume gain this year.

The U.S. is by far the world’s largest market for Irish whiskey, with a 40% share of global volume, according to industry group Drinks Ireland. Total Irish whiskey exports worldwide reached €727 million ($799m) in 2019 on an 11.5% gain. According to the Department of Commerce, U.S. imports of Irish whiskey amounted to $550 million last year, after an increase of nearly 20% over 2018, while shipment volume rose 15% to 4.8 million cases.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Irish whiskey has actually lagged other spirits segments in the U.S., posting 13% dollar sales growth in Nielsen channels for the 52 weeks ending May 16, slower than the gains registered by flavored whiskies, Tequila, and pre-mixed cocktails. Irish whiskey’s momentum has also slowed in U.S. control states, increasing just 6% by volume in the four months ending in April, according to NABCA, compared to growth of 9% growth in control jurisdictions in calendar 2019.

But there have been some promising developments, too, as both Jameson and second-ranked Tullamore Dew posted impressive 29% volume gains in IRI channels for the 16 weeks ending May 17. And for the first time ever, Irish whiskey dollar sales in IRI channels actually surpassed those of Scotch whisky during that same 16-week period. If current trends hold, Irish whiskey should reach the 5-million case mark in the U.S. by year-end, Impact Databank projects.—Natalia Razzo

U.S.Top 5 Irish Whiskey Brands

(thousands of 9-liter case depletions)

Rank Brand Company 2018 2019 Percent
1 Jameson Pernod Ricard USA 3,497 3,723 6.5%
2 Tullamore Dew William Grant & Sons USA 309 301 -2.8%
3 Bushmills Proximo Spirits 191 199 4.0%
4 Proper No. Twelve Proximo Spirits 41 124 200.5%
5 Redbreast Pernod Ricard USA 33 40 19.2%
Total Top Five2 4,072 4,387 7.7%
1 Based on unrounded data.
2 Addition of columns may not agree do to rounding.

Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2020

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