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Impact Databank: American Rye On Pace To Maintain Rapid Growth

August 30, 2021

After an impressive 13% volume increase last year amid the pandemic, American rye whiskey has sustained its momentum this year, with year-on-year growth of 19.8% in dollar terms for the 52 weeks ending August 14 in Nielsen channels, compared to +13.3% for straight Bourbon. Rye has been among the hottest areas of the drinks market in recent years, evidenced by the category’s rapid rise to nearly 1.26 million 9-liter cases in annual depletions last year, according to Impact Databank—nearly doubling its total since 2015—with both major marketers and smaller players contributing to gains.

Diageo-owned Bulleit rye leads the field by a wide margin, with volume up 9% to 525,000 cases last year. Rye now accounts for over one-third of the entire Bulleit franchise, which depleted over 1.5 million cases in the U.S. in 2020 and saw North American net sales climb 10% in the 12 months through June. Utah-based High West has also seen its rye expression continue to rise since being acquired by Constellation Brands in 2016. Over the past five years, High West’s rye depletions have risen by two-thirds to 60,000 cases, placing it among the leading brands in the category.

Likewise, rye is a growing part of the mix for Beam Suntory, which counts Knob Creek, Old Overholt, Basil Hayden, and Jim Beam among its rye offerings. Basil Hayden’s rye registered particularly strong growth last year, soaring 18% to 55,000 cases. Among other key brands, Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve rye surged 20.5% in 2020, while Redemption rye is now the fastest-growing variant of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits’ core range of whiskies, and depletions are up 25% in its fiscal year-to-date thus far. Other key brands include Infinium’s Templeton rye as well as craft players Michter’s and WhistlePig.

Rye is also well positioned for major whiskey marketers, as these upscale expressions generally sell for roughly two-thirds more at retail than their straight American whiskey counterparts, according to Impact Databank. In spite of a somewhat sluggish summer-selling season due to tough comparisons against last year’s pandemic-driven surge, rye commanded an average price of $34.50 a 750-ml. in the 52 weeks ending August 14 in Nielsen channels, compared to $20.45 for straight Bourbon. American rye is expected to reach nearly 1.4 million cases in the U.S. this year, according to Impact Databank.—Juan Banaag

Leading American Rye Brands in the U.S.
(thousands of 9-liter case depletions)
Brand Distiller 2019 2020 Percent
Change1
Bulleit Diageo North America 481 525 9.0%
High West Constellation Brands 55 60 9.1%
Basil Hayden Beam Suntory 46 55 18.4%
Woodford Reserve Brown-Forman 44 53 20.5%
Redemption Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits 40 45 14.5%
Total Leading Brands 666 738 10.8%
1 Based on unrounded data.
Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2021
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