Gin could be just the tonic the drinks industry needs

Ireland is now one of the world’s top 10 gin-drinking nations, writes John Daly

Gin could be just the tonic the drinks industry needs

The Irish spirits sector has experienced a boom in recent years, with exports up almost a third. Ireland is now one of the world’s top 10 gin-drinking nations, according to recent research from Euromonitor International, with Irish consumers spending almost €83m on the product last year, an increase of 23% on 2015 levels.

The Irish Spirits Association (ISA) predicts that sales will increase further in 2017, underpinned by a rise in gin of 31.6%, making it the fastest-growing spirit in the country last year. The ISA is part of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland - the trade association representing brewers, distillers, brand owners and distributors in Ireland - which is, in turn, a part of Ibec, and was established in 1997 to promote the interests of the Irish spirits industry in Ireland and internationally.

The association recently hosted the inaugural meeting of Ireland’s gin producers, agreeing that their key priority was to support the creation of a legally-recognised standard for the product.

“Recent years have seen a resurgence in the market for gin as consumers seek to try out different brands,” said ISA chief, William Lavelle.

“Consumers are looking at new combinations for which this age-old product can complement modern tastes. In Ireland, this resurgence in interest has been matched by an explosion in the number of brands of Irish gin, with over 30 Irish brands now on the market.”

While the domestic market has been key to this growth, competition and innovation in the sector is also leading to more export opportunities, with a number of Irish gin producers working with Bord Bia to enter new markets. Vodka remains Ireland’s most popular spirit, but sales have fallen by a quarter over the past decade. The report also notes that, following a lost decade for Irish cream liqueur, 2016 saw a return to growth.

Sales of Irish-made gin were the fastest growing segment at Dublin and Cork airports during The Loop’s recent inaugural Spirit of Gin Festival, which ran over August and September.

More than 50 gin brands were on display, of which 26 are produced in Ireland, including the Gunpowder, Listoke, Glendalough, Kinsale and Ha’penny labels.

The Irish spirits industry is undergoing vibrant growth, according to a report by the ISA, with a key trend the remarkable surge in the popularity of gin.

While the report notes that the Irish market is dynamic and rapidly-changing, the overall consumption of spirits in Ireland has fallen by almost 20% over the past decade, as the value of Irish spirit exports increased by 6.1% in 2016, to €805M.

The report found that Ireland’s whiskey renaissance continues to go from strength to strength, with sales up 11.3% in 2016. Premium Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirit category in the world, with sales up by 135% in the last five years. The number of distilleries operating in Ireland has grown from just four a decade ago to 18 today.

Members of the Irish Spirits Association employ over 1,550 people in spirits production, sales and tourism, paying €88m in wages. The Irish spirits industry purchases 316 million litres of fresh cream from Irish farmers, sourced from 46,000 dairy cows.

Additionally, 85,000 tonnes of Irish malted and unmalted barley are purchased by the Irish whiskey industry every year.

“This report paints a bright picture of a dynamic industry with a vast economic footprint,” said Mr Lavelle.

“It is an industry that can deliver even more exports, more jobs and more domestic sourcing if we’re allowed.”

However, he cited the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill as a major threat to the industry.

“This bill will make Ireland one of the most restrictive countries in the world for marketing alcohol products. It will ban images of people, animals, scenic shots and scenes in pubs from appearing in alcohol advertisements.

“These draconian restrictions will make it hard for new players to enter the market, as they won’t be able to market their products.”

He added the bill will undermine investment in the Irish spirits industry, damage competition, deter innovation and threaten future export growth.

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