Irish whiskey sales rebound in Australia

While 2021 was a difficult year for Irish whiskey exports to Australia, the category is expected to return to growth in 2022 as lockdowns ends and tourism resumes.

The Irish Food Board – Bord Bia – has released its Exports Performance and Prospects 2021 – 2022 report, which describes Australia as “another promising emerging market for Irish spirits”. While exports declined by 6% to €24 million in 2021, the report said it was a result of stringent COVID-19 prevention measures in many regions which effectively closed the on-trade for large portions of the year.

“From 2016-2020, sales of Irish whiskey in Australia more than doubled to three million bottles [250,000 cases],” Head of the Irish Whiskey Association, William Lavelle, told Drinks Digest.

“Irish whiskey was the fastest growing of the four largest international whiskey categories on sale in Australia and we expect it will continue to be fastest growing category for the next number of years.

“The good news is that the number of brands and expressions available on Australian shelves is expanding rapidly – including in the premium and super-premium price segments – meaning Australian consumers have more opportunities than ever to discover the depth and diversity of Irish whiskey.”

While the on-trade in Australia is expected to rebound, Bord Bia noted that the IWSR estimates it will not reach pre-pandemic levels until 2025.

Thirst for Irish drinks grows

Globally, exports of Irish alcoholic drinks grew by 19% last year, led by the strong rebound of Irish whiskey, reaching €1.62 billion.

Irish whiskey exports grew by a quarter to €855 million, with 55% of exports to the US. Irish cream liqueurs exports rose by 19% to €367m (US$420m), while gin recorded a 38% increase, albeit from a lower base. Almost 40% of cream liqueur exports went to the US.

Irish beer exports were hit by on-trade closures, increasing by 3%, while cider exports climbed by 50% in 2021.

“The trend towards premium and super premium and less but better will also continue, especially in established markets, which will continue to increase the value of Irish drinks exports,” the report noted.

“As the on-trade and nightclubs return to more normal trading conditions, the growth in the mixology and cocktail culture
will resume. The potential return of restrictions and uncertainty about the future of the pandemic in the context of the
Omicrom variant, is leading to some concern about that return.

“At-home cocktail culture became a growing trend, particularly in European markets, during the pandemic, but a return of the offtrade should benefit exports of spirits including gin and liqueurs.”

Patricia Callan, director of trade body Drinks Ireland, said: “The new figures illustrate the resilience of the Irish drinks industry, which demonstrated strong recovery last year after the difficulties of 2020, with overall exports returning to 2019 levels. The prospects for the drinks sector are broadly positive for 2022, with recovery expected to continue in the spirits sector, despite challenges in relation to inflation across the supply chain. A recovery in beer exports is also anticipated.”

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