- Americans consumed 4.2 million more cases of spirits last year compared to 2014, a 2% increase that added up to 215.9 million nine-liter cases, according to a new report from the Beverage Information Group. That marks the 18th straight year of growth for the distilled spirits industry.
- Various sub-segments of the whiskey and bourbon category posted notable growth, including Irish whiskey (12.9%), American straight whiskey (4.8%) and blended whiskey (6%). Imports like Canadian whisky and scotch also saw increases of 2.2% and 5.1%, respectively.
- Vodka, tequila, brandy/cognac and cordials/liqueurs all experienced consumption growth last year, while gin and rum continued previous declines at 1.8% and 1.5%, respectively. Despite its continued drops in consumption, rum is still the second-largest spirits category.
The improving economy has been a key factor in the amount of disposable income consumers have to spend on premium products both at home and away. Premium and super-premium spirits continue to be a major driver for the category and many of its segments, from whiskey to tequila.
Millennials play a major role in the growth of several distilled spirits as manufacturers respond to the generation's demand for greater variety and versatility in their alcohol. That's particularly true for categories like bourbon, Irish whiskey, cognac and prepared cocktails, of which older millennials comprise the largest share of drinkers. A May 2016 survey also found that a larger percentage of millennials drink more alcohol than Generation X and baby boomers.
As consumers, particularly millennials, continue to experiment with alcoholic beverages, it's likely that the 18-year growth streak for distilled spirits will go on. This leaves craft and major brewers of wine and beer struggling against a category that offers consumers with wide-ranging palates the variety and experimentation they demand from the alcoholic beverage industry.