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Control State Spirits Sales Running Up Against Tough Comps

June 10, 2022

Accounting for approximately 22% of the total spirits market in the U.S., according to Impact Databank, control states saw robust growth last year, with dollar sales up nearly 10%. But in 2022, control state volumes have begun hitting difficult year-on-year comparisons. According to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA), rolling 12-month volume growth through April was at 2.2%, with the year-to-date rate turning negative at -0.6%. Spirits shelf dollars in control states are up 5.9% on a rolling 12-month basis through April, but only 2.4% in the year-to-date.

Last year, the powerful growth of super-premium ($24-$40 a 750-ml.) and ultra-premium (over $40 a 750-ml.) spirits brands fueled dollar sales, which rose 9.8% on a 4.6% volume gain in 2021, according to NABCA and Impact Databank. “People are trading up significantly,” says NABCA senior vice president of trade relations David Jackson. “People are drinking higher-quality spirits. The greater the price, theoretically, the healthier the market.”

The restocking of the on-premise last year brought significant beverage alcohol growth after the shutdowns of 2020. But as the drinks industry continues to recover from the pandemic, supply challenges persist, especially for hot categories like Tequila and Cognac. “There’s going to be a continued shortage of truck logistics, and shortages of Tequila,” Jackson says. Bourbon also faces supply issues due to its aging requirements, as well as glass shortages that have plagued key brands recently.

Rising gas prices and inflation are also stoking economic concern. “Inflation has us worried since so much spirits growth overall is in premiumization,” says Travis Hill, CEO of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. “Some consumers might feel they’re getting squeezed at the gas pump and elsewhere.”

Nevertheless, the premiumization of spirits is expected to continue, albeit at a slower pace. “We’ve seen that consumers aren’t afraid to spend money on quality, experience, and the right branding and/or marketing,” says Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) chairman Tim Holden. Market Watch has more on the outlook for spirits in control states.—Kevin Barry

U.S.—Top 10 Spirits Brands In Control States
(thousands of cases)
Brand Company Origin/Type YTD Through
April 2021
YTD Through
April 2022
Tito’s Fifth Generation Domestic Vodka 776 879 13.3%
Fireball Sazerac Co. Flavored Whisky 561 579 3.1%
Smirnoff Diageo Domestic Vodka 611 577 -5.6%
Captain Morgan Diageo Virgin Islands Rum 412 416 0.9%
Bacardi Bacardi USA Puerto Rican Rum 397 383 -3.6%
New Amsterdam Spirit of Gallo Domestic Vodka 347 338 -2.6%
Jack Daniel’s2 Brown-Forman Tennessee Whiskey 335 334 -0.3%
Jose Cuervo Proximo Spirits Tequila 283 294 3.7%
Jim Beam2 Beam Suntory Bourbon 294 286 -2.7%
Crown Royal2 Diageo Canadian Whisky 277 269 -2.8%
Total Top 103 4,294 4,355 1.4%
Other Brands 13,222 13,088 -1.0%
Total Spirits in Control States4 17,516 17,443 -0.4%
1 Based on unrounded data.
2 Excludes flavors.
3 Addition of columns may not agree due to rounding.
4 Y
ear-to-date April 2022 amounted to the equivalent of 18.8 million 9-liter cases (-0.6%).

Source: NABCA and IMPACT DATABANK © 2022

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