Bord Bia report shows robust growth for Irish drinks exports, but worries over Brexit and labelling

Irish beverage exports rose by 8% last year to €1.5bn, due to continued demand for premium spirit and liqueur products, according to new figures released today.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), the representative body for drinks manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland, has welcomed the new figures from Bord Bia’s latest export performance report.

According to the report, Irish beverage exports continue to benefit from the surge in popularity for Irish whiskey in global markets, which recorded almost 20% annual growth to €600m.

Irish cream liqueurs also had a buoyant year, rising 10% overall to more than €300m. This follows a ‘lost decade’ in which growth stagnated in the category.

In 2017 the top five markets for drinks exports were the United States, UK, Canada, Germany and France.

The Japanese market was the best performing of the Asian countries with sales rising by 30% to €9m.

The report says that export growth in 2018 will be driven by the ongoing growth trajectory of Irish whiskey, the popularity of premium brands and product innovation.

Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland said: "A few years ago, there were just four whiskey distilleries and there are now 18, with a further 16 in planning. Additionally, there are now over 100 craft beer brands in the country.

"However, there are challenges ahead. The Bord Bia report identifies Brexit as a threat to Irish food and drinks exports.

"Given that Ireland’s drinks industry operates on an ‘all-island’ basis, a resolution to the issue of a trade border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland is our priority.

Ms Callan also said the federation is worrieed about the "unintended negative consequences" from the advertising and labelling measures being proposed in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

She said: "As we see from this report, smaller and boutique producers are key to drinks export growth, and they need freedom to innovatively market and advertise their products in their home market prior to export.

"Equally, if as now proposed following the Seanad debates, Irish whiskey, gin, beer and liqueurs must carry a cancer label, when our competitors in the rest of the world do not, this will be hugely damaging to our international reputation and our ability to export.

"We want to work with the Government in 2018 to address these issues and to ensure Irish drinks exports continue apace."

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