New Bord Bia report proves Ireland’s drinks industry is an export powerhouse

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Irish alcohol drinks exports were worth €1.25bn in 2018

    US market for Irish whiskey grew by more than 10% in 2018
    Value of Irish cream liqueur exports rose by 5% in 2018 to €342m
    Irish beer exports to the European continent remain strong

Exports from Ireland’s drinks industry continued to grow in 2018, driven in large part by demand for premium products like Irish whiskey. This is according to Bord Bia’s ‘Export Performance & Prospects 2018-2019’ report, published today and welcomed by Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI).

The report found that Irish alcohol drinks exports were worth €1.25bn in 2018.* The US remains the largest market for Irish beverage exports, followed by the UK, Canada, Germany and France.

Growth in the sector has been driven by continued double-digit demand for Irish whiskey in many markets. Irish whiskey exports are now valued at €620 million. They account for 42 per cent of total beverage exports and are the largest single part of the beverage category.

For Irish whiskey, consumption levels globally are expected to exceed 10 million cases by the end of 2018 for the first time.

Notably, the US market for Irish whiskey grew by more than 10 per cent in 2018.

There has also been a sustained change in fortunes for the Irish cream liqueur category. It enjoyed a strong performance with growth of 9 per cent in value, achieving sales of over 7.9 million cases in 2018, up from 7.2 million in 2017.

While the value of beer exports fell marginally, the volume increased by 9 per cent. This was a result of a positive performance on the European continent. This reflects a continuing trend from 2017.

Elsewhere, the report notes that Irish gin is emerging as a category for the international consumer. The category is set to be worth more than €5m in exports in 2018.

As the Irish gin supply base expands in response to global trends, double-digit growth was recorded in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Italy and Germany and notable growth of 8 per cent is reflected in the consumption of Irish gin in Spain.

Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said:

“Today’s report proves that Ireland’s drinks industry is an export powerhouse, going from strength to strength.

“Looking forward, the outlook for 2019 remains positive, driven by the popularity of premium brands and the growth of Irish whiskey in key international markets like the US.

“The report notes that Irish whiskey must not be overly-reliant on the US and producers continue to look at emerging markets. For example, consumers with disposable income are spending more on imported drinks in South Africa and Irish whiskey exporters are well placed to take advantage of this over the coming years.

“In terms of challenges, the report notes that the domestic market will face regulatory challenges in 2019, as a result of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act.

“As 24 per cent of all beverage exports went to the UK in 2018, Brexit is another significant challenge for producers. As Bord Bia says, the whole island of Ireland is integrated in production for many manufacturers.

“The industry must also continue innovating to respond to a changing consumer landscape. The report identifies the growing trend towards health and wellbeing. Already there is an increasing number of low and non-alcoholic beers on the market as a result of this and these are expected to grow in popularity in 2019. “