Irish Whiskey industry ready to bounce back after Covid-19 restrictions

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Irish whiskey industry backs calls for funding support to promote brands in key markets around the world ahead of World Whiskey Day -

The Irish Whiskey industry is ready to bounce back when the Covid-19 restrictions are eased. That is the message from Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey Association to mark World Whiskey Day this Saturday, 16th May 2020.

The Irish whiskey industry had a successful 2019 with 137 million bottles (11.4 million cases) of Irish whiskey sold globally, a doubling of sales since 2010; along with a record one million people visiting Irish whiskey distilleries and brand homes.

However, the Association is warning that 2020 will prove very different as the Irish whiskey industry assesses the negative economic impact of Covid-19.

William Lavelle, Head of Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey Association, said: “In response to the Covid-19 crisis, our industry had to step back and in some cases step-up. Sales channels have been restricted and, and in many cases, such as bars and travel retail, have shut down. We closed our visitor centres. Cash flow has dried-up. Jobs have been lost, hopefully only temporarily.

“The Irish whiskey industry has proven itself to be resilient. After decades of decline, we’ve just experienced a remarkable decade of recovery. That recovery will continue. We’re ready to bounce back again.”

Playing their part in the Covid-19 pandemic
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Irish whiskey distilleries have supported the national effort to slow the spread of the virus, by producing alcohol-based hand sanitisers to help the country meet its increased demand for the product.

Lavelle commented: “It is really encouraging to see whiskey distilleries and brand homes play their part during this public health emergency. There has been a massive increase in demand for alcohol-based sanitisers, given its effectiveness in helping to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.”

Promoting Irish whiskey in key markets, both domestic and international
A key priority for the Irish whiskey industry over coming weeks and months will be to consolidate and reboot sales in key existing markets for Irish whiskey. To support this, Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey Association is developing new programmes to promote Irish whiskey at home and abroad.

Lavelle commented: “This crisis has knocked back sales growth. Orders have been cancelled and, in some cases, companies have been called on to take back stock. The challenges are particularly stark for many smaller and new-entrant companies.

“But our industry intends to win back these sales losses, across all our key markets. Our Association is finalising ambitious plans to promote Irish whiskey in our key markets, from the US and Canada right back to the domestic Irish market where we’ll be seeking to re-position Irish whiskey in what is quite likely to be a re-imagined Irish hospitality scene.”

The Irish whiskey industry is calling on the Irish and Northern Irish governments to back the proposal from Drinks Ireland for an ambitious programme of support - with up to 70 per cent funding - to allow companies to directly and exclusively employ graduate brand ambassadors in key markets for at least 12 months.

Lavelle added “Supporting Irish exporters to reboot their brands and regain market position should be a key priority for Government. Funding ‘boots on the ground’ in key markets around the world has long been the key to Irish food and drinks export success and is now more vital than ever.”

Targeting domestic tourists
Last year, over one million people visited Irish whiskey distilleries and brand homes. However, 87 per cent of those visitors were from overseas, which will result in a significant decline in visitor numbers recorded this year.

Lavelle said: “Irish whiskey visitor attractions are more exposed than other attractions to the loss of international tourism. We will be actively targeting domestic Irish tourists once our visitor centres reopen in July.

“The second half 2020 is likely to see a surge in ‘stay-cations’, short breaks and day trips by Irish people right across the island of Ireland. As part of this we are encouraging Irish people to visit an Irish whiskey distillery.

“International visitors to Ireland have up to now flocked to Irish whiskey distilleries on the basis of their worldwide reputation as exciting and enjoyable attractions, where people can learn how Irish whiskey is made and explore the influence of the people and place in crafting our unique national spirit. We now want more Irish visitors to discover the depth and diversity of our Irish whiskey distilleries and brands homes, starting with their local distilleries.

“Distilleries and brand homes are ready to reopen their doors in July , many with new and redesigned tour experiences – such as more intimate tour offerings for couples, families and small groups - all designed to ensure the safety and enjoyment of visitors.”

For more information on Irish whiskey distillery visitor attractions visit https://irishwhiskey360.ie/