Taken together, the whiskey categories grew 2.3% in total volume in 2012, an increased rate of growth from the 1.8% gain achieved in 2011. According to a recently-released State of the Industry report by Technomic reveals a first look at 2012 adult beverage category and brand performance. This whiskey ramp-up occurred as total non-whiskey spirits growth decelerated slightly, going from 4.0% in 2011 to 3.3% in 2012. Of course, non-whiskey spirits retained the lion’s share of the spirits market – accounting for 76.5% of total volume, and a similar share of on-premise spirits volume. This acceleration in whiskey volume confirms that consumer palates are evolving, especially when the gains achieved by American straight whiskey, rye, corn whiskey, Irish whiskey and single malt Scotch are considered.
There’s no mistaking the fact that bars and restaurants are playing an important role in the increased momentum of whiskeys. The incidence of whiskey on leading chain restaurant drink menus increased 13% since 2010, according to Technomic’s Menu Monitor. The range of styles, flavor profiles and unique stories within whiskey is a triple-play of features that appeal to today’s imbibers, and operators are mining those attributes. Anecdotally and through the Menu Monitor, we’re seeing more creative and strategic presentations of whiskey at the bar, such as menus featuring Irish whiskey flights, back bars merchandising both big name and boutique bourbons and bartenders crafting new cocktails involving rye, Scotch and corn whiskeys, often while telling the story of the spirit’s origins. It seems on-premise operators are increasingly thinking clearly about “brown.”