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Control State Spirits Volume Rose 7.5% In 2020, But Decelerated In Closing Months

February 5, 2021

After strong double-digit gains in September and October, the holiday season brought disappointing results to control states, as spirits volume increased just 3.4% in December, following a tepid 2% gain in November, according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA). For the entirety of 2020, spirits volumes rose 7.5% in control states, still impressive when compared to an aggregate increase of just 3.7% for all of 2019. NABCA markets comprised nearly 24% of the U.S. spirits market last year, according to Impact Databank, which estimates that the total spirits market grew by around 5% to approximately 250 million cases.

The slowing control state growth toward the end of the year matches the trend in IRI channels, which saw 16% spirits volume gains in the 52 weeks through December 27, but only a 6.6% increase in the most recent four weeks.

Nine control states posted double-digit gains in 2020, including 13% growth for North Carolina and 12% for Michigan, to more than offset the 8.5% twelve-month decline in Pennsylvania. Ohio and Virginia registered increases of just below 10% last year. North Carolina had a strong December, with a 14% gain, but Michigan fell 14% during the month. In 2020, Michigan and Pennsylvania were the sixth- and seventh-largest spirits-consuming states overall, according to Impact Databank.

Pre-packaged cocktails were the single-fastest growing category in control states last year, jumping 40% by volume, to outpace other hot segments like Cognac (+35%), Tequila (+21%) and American whiskies (+12%). Canned ready-to-drink brands have driven the sudden growth in pre-packaged cocktails, which surged by more than 60% overall in 2020, according to Impact Databank, to over 14 million cases. American whiskies were propelled by super-premium Bourbon and flavors, while upscale growth has also driven Tequila’s momentum. Cognac’s rise was led by Rémy Martin, which soared more than 50% to 1.5 million cases overall in the U.S. last year.

Sazerac and Diageo finished neck and neck for leadership among control state spirits marketers last year, with Sazerac on top with over 16% volume compared to Diageo’s nearly 15% share. Proximo Spirits was the fastest grower among the ten-largest suppliers in NABCA with a 25% surge, largely due to Jose Cuervo Especial Silver Tequila, which soared 33% overall in the U.S. in 2020, according to Impact Databank. Next-fastest was Gallo, due primarily to New Amsterdam Pink Whitney, which sold 800,000 cases overall in only its second year on the market. The other fast-growing brand among the top 10 in control states last year was Hennessy Cognac (+30%).—Juan Banaag

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