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Exclusive: U.S. Spirits Market Climbs 6% In 2022, Boosted By RTDs

January 3, 2023

After a period of drastic market fluctuations brought on by the pandemic, the U.S. spirits category began to restore its equilibrium last year, as the on-premise roared back to health and the retail segment came back to Earth after two years of outsized gains. The reversal of fortune in both channels has caused further shifting in a market already in the throes of significant change, with younger consumers reshaping consumption trends—across categories, channels, and occasions—all amid an uncertain economic backdrop.

Still, a few notable trends have held to form lately—and figure to continue in the new year—among them premiumization in key categories like Tequila and American whiskey, as well as the explosive growth of the ready-to-drink segment. The latter is epitomized by the runaway success of the spirits market’s new volume leader, E.&J. Gallo-owned High Noon Sun Sips, which roughly doubled in size to more than 16 million cases last year, overtaking Tito’s for the top spot in the process.

High Noon’s surge played a big role in driving the overall U.S. spirits market to an estimated 6.3% increase to 294 million 9-liter cases last year, according to Impact Databank. And RTDs as a whole—also including new members of the top 25 spirits brands like Cutwater and Monaco—have been instrumental in the overall spirits category’s addition of nearly 70 million cases to its total over the past five years. In 2022, spirits-based RTDs approached 40 million cases in the U.S., according to Impact Databank.

While RTDs fueled much of the spirits industry’s volume progress last year, two of the primary growth drivers of the past decade—Tito’s and Fireball—likewise turned in impressive performances. While Tito’s slipped behind High Noon, its long-term growth streak continued in 2022, as the Texas-based vodka brand expanded by an estimated 600,000 cases—or 5%—to a total of 11.6 million cases, according to Impact Databank. That’s nearly double Tito’s total from 2017, when it still trailed Smirnoff by 3 million cases, and caps a five-year period in which the brand averaged nearly 14% annual growth.

Similarly, Sazerac-owned Fireball tacked on 400,000 cases last year to top the 7-million-case mark. After adding 2.3 million cases over the last five years, Fireball accounts for more than 20% of volume for Sazerac, which ranks behind Diageo as the second-largest U.S. spirits player in volume terms.

Among other top-five spirits brands, Diageo-owned Smirnoff has been challenged by the rise of Tito’s, but has still managed to hold near the 9-million-case threshold over the past half-decade, while leveraging a variety of formats including the core vodka as well as FMB variants to expand its appeal across channels and occasions.

Diageo stablemate Crown Royal has benefited from the strong performance of flavors such as Regal Apple, Peach, and Salted Caramel to tack on 1.4 million cases since 2017, with its volume standing at 7.4 million cases last year. The latest addition to the brand is high-end Crown Royal Aged 29 Years Extra Rare Blended Canadian Whisky, which is bottled at 46% abv and retails at $399 a bottle. That release followed the 2021 debut of Crown Royal Aged 18 Years. “One of the trends we’re seeing is that whisky drinkers are more interested in trying new luxurious offerings within the category,” the company told SND. “Our 29 Year Old expression is a refreshed take on a new meaning behind modern luxury and fuels our consumer’s desire to experiment with Canadian whisky.”—Daniel Marsteller

A full report on the U.S. market’s Top 25 Spirits Brands will appear in Impact’s forthcoming January 1&15 edition. Click here to subscribe.

The Top Five Spirits Brands In The U.S. Market
(millions of 9-liter cases)
Rank Brand Company Origin/Type 2021 2022E Percent
1 High Noon
Sun Sips
Spirit of Gallo Vodka-Based
Hard Seltzer
8.8 16.4 85.6%
2 Tito’s Fifth Generation Domestic Vodka 11.0 11.6 5.0%
3 Smirnoff Diageo Domestic Vodka 8.9 8.8 -2.0%
4 Crown Royal2 Diageo Canadian Whisky 7.5 7.4 -0.7%
5 Fireball Sazerac Co Flavored Canadian
6.8 7.2 5.5%
1 Based on unrounded data
2 Includes flavors, excludes RTDs
Source: IMPACT DATABANK © 2023
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