CENTER STORE BEVERAGES: U.S. Spirits Consumption Still Growing

The Beverage Information Group’s recently released 2009 Liquor Handbook has found that total distilled spirits consumption increased 2.1 percent in 2008 to 185.6 million 9-liter cases. This gain marks the eleventh consecutive year of advances for the category.

The handbook additionally noted that imported spirits’ growth was slower than that of their domestic counterparts for the first time since 2001. This is a direct result not only of consumers trading down, but also of a weak dollar that has raised prices and tightened margins for imported brands. Total imported spirits rose 1.7 percent to 74.3 million cases vs. slightly faster growth for domestics, which increased 2.5 percent to 111.3 million. This growth contrasts with the previous trend of higher-priced imported spirits growing faster than domestic brands.

The distilled spirits business is still healthy, although growth declined slightly last year partly because of the recession. The ongoing sales drivers are the broad assortment of flavored products in the market, along with sales that currently range from above-premium offerings to value-priced products, the latter of which are outpacing the overall market.

“With consumers tightening their spending, they are frequenting bars and restaurants less, which has lead to a measurable shift to off-premise consumption,” said Eric Schmidt, manager of information services for the Norwalk, Conn.-based Beverage Information Group. “On-premise sales dropped 3.0 percent to $35.3 billion, whereas off-premise sales have jumped 9.6 percent to $27.6 billion.”

The 2009 Liquor Handbook, a comprehensive source of information on U.S. spirits and sales trends, includes consumption and projection information by category and by market; tracks leading brands; and reports historical data. To purchase the handbook, visit or call Cynthia Porter at 630-762-8709.
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