Whiskey’s Moment or True Momentum?April 14, 2014 By: Donna Hood Crecca
For the first time in well over a decade, the growth of whiskey outpaced non-whiskey spirits in 2013 in total U.S. volume, according to the soon-to-be released 2014 SpiritsTAB report. The upward tick in whiskey’s pace signifies a shift in the consumer palate. On-premise, straight American whiskey, Irish whiskey and single malt Scotch each posted gains; Irish achieved a double-digit volume increase.
Simultaneously, the powerhouse on-premise spirit, vodka, declined slightly following several years of notable growth. Straight American, Irish and Scotch also increased in menu penetration at leading chain restaurants, while vodka penetration declined slightly, according to our MenuMonitor tool.
Whiskey’s growth trend has been building for some time. Interest in more complex and flavorful spirits, coupled with a penchant for products with heritage and unique back stories has been on the rise among consumers in recent years, and most whiskey categories deliver on both attributes. Similar to wine, Millennial consumers are coming to whiskey early in their LDA years, and exploring and embracing the various styles and expressions. The generation over indexes on calls for all types of whiskey-based drinks at the bar, according to SpiritsTAB.
Non-whiskey categories -- including vodka, tequila, rum, gin, brandy and Cognac, cordials and liqueurs -- still account for three-quarters of total spirits volume, and vodka remains the dominant category at the bar. However, whiskey’s rate of growth in recent years and current trends in consumer preferences indicate its momentum will continue.
As a result, back bar presentations and drink menu mixes should evolve, driven by strategic category management initiatives that yield spirits selections in line with the flavor and brand preferences of the venue’s patrons. In addition, the changing consumer palate opens up new opportunities to introduce aged and unique styles of rum, tequila and other spirits that can satisfy consumers’ thirst for more complex flavors in the glass.