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Industry Research

Did Spirits Have A Challenging Year?

January 20, 2014 By: Jack Robertiello


You probably already know this yourself, but overall, spirits volumes had a challenging year on-premise in 2013.

According to research firm GuestMetrics, despite a challenging year for spirits in 2013, brown spirits continued to out-perform clear spirits, and across all the spirits categories there were some select bright spots and "fairly dramatic shifts" in volume share. Volumes dropped 2.6 percent on-premise for the full year, while dollar sales crept up one percent with a particularly weak end-of-year, though it should be noted there was a broad deceleration in overall traffic in on-premise towards the end of ‘13 due to unfavorable weather and a shortened holiday shopping season.

Within specific categories, brown spirits generally out-performed clear spirits in 2013, with positive year-over-year volume growth coming from bourbons and blends (up 20 percent) and Irish whiskey (up nine percent), according to GuestMetrics. Gin and Brandy/Cognac were each down about one percent, Scotch was down about two percent, Tequila was down five percent, Vodka down about six percent, Canadian and Rum each down around eight percent and Cordials down 12 percent.

McCormick Cocktails
 Photo Credit: McCormick & Schmicks

The firm also reports fairly dramatic share shifts within most of categories: in Vodka, Tito’s showed significant gains, while Stoli and Three Olives lost the most ground; in Tequila, the biggest gainer was Don Julio followed by Avion, while Patron and Cuervo lost ground; in Gin, Hendricks took the most share, while Tanqueray and Bombay both lost; in Rum, Bacardi lost share at the hands of several smaller players; in Bourbons/Blends, Fireball gained the most share followed by Bulleit, while the Jack Daniels family lost ground; in Cordials, RumChata displayed impressive gains, while Jager and SoCo both lost ground; in Irish, Jameson continued to make impressive gains; and in Scotch, strong share gains by Macallan, Balvenie, and Laphroaig, while Dewars and Chivas lost ground.

Meanwhile, restaurant consultant Andrew Freeman's annual trend report suggests new ideas are spreading fast in drink world. Chefs are continuing to enter the bar business in a big way, he says. "We’re seeing a plethora of chef-driven bar concepts that offer thoughtful bites to pair with complex cocktails and wine programs. Similarly, traditional bars and wineries are adding composed dishes to their repertoire to enhance the tasting experience and encourage patrons to linger."

Ice shapes and quality aren't the last frontier of evolution, he says - cubes infused with herbs and other
ingredients are showing up more to enhance the flavors in cocktails. More operators are taking by the glass wine programs further, this time to by the ounce servings. Tea is topping off cocktails and making a big splash whether served hot or cold or even as an ingredient in beers. Alcohol with ice cream floats, slushies and snow cones are showing up more. And Freeman also reports that tipping in American bars and restaurants may be headed for a change, as service charges and tip pooling including back of the house staff is emerging.


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