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Top 10 fastest-growing imported spirits markets

Global consumption of imported spirits grew 4.3% in 2011 versus 2010, just under 14m nine-litre cases in volume terms, according to the latest data from the IWSR.

The top 10 growth markets for imported spirits include the BRIC markets and other emerging markets such as Mexico, Poland, the Ukraine and Chile, as well as mature markets such as Germany and the US.

The emerging markets are experiencing growing affluence and the development of a middle class. This also allows greater penetration of imported spirits to all regions and the on-going development of the markets.

Whisk(e)y was the largest growth imported spirits category globally, selling 5.4m more cases in export markets in 2011 than in 2010. Whisk(e)y was the largest growth category in Russia, Brazil, India, Mexico and Poland. In many markets consumers are seeking a new taste profile and are switching from white to brown spirits.

Vodka is the second-largest growth category globally. In the US, vodka’s huge growth has continued, driven by new flavours.

Global sales of imported spirits took a dip in 2009 due to the global economic crisis, but volumes recovered in 2010 and have maintained healthy growth.

Using the IWSR figures, we chart the top 10 largest growth imported spirits markets

All volume figures in: ‘000s 9-litre cases (Vol)


Largest growth category: vodka

Volume Change 2010-2011: 360.7

Bacardi-Martini Chile has previously reported vodka sales grew 15% in 2011. Whiskey imports, which make up 37% of Chile’s imported liquor sales, grew just 1% last year. In essence Chileans are developing a preference for premium liquors and this new trend is evident in the drinking habits of both men and women. It is claimed that looking at current consumption figures, vodka could become the new “rum” of industry.

In Chile, it is estimated that nearly 50 thousand crates of vodka are sold each year, with a 30% rate of growth every 12 months. This category shows the highest growth amongst all the liquors and spirits.


Largest growth category: Whisk(e)y

Volume Change 2010-2011: 482.5


The entry of Poland to the European Union and abolition of customs fees, has meant that such spirits as whisky, cognac, rum or gin became affordable. Although vodka still remains the leading alcoholic beverage in Poland, other spirits, such as whisky do now achieve high sales as well.

The sale of whisky in Poland has raised as much as 35% in one year in 2005.

Scotch whisky Johnnie Walker is the leading brand and the leading import countries are France, Germany, Great Britain and Bulgaria.

8. Mexico

Largest growth category: Whisk(e)y

Volume Change 2010-2011: 491.4


Alcoholic beverages have always been an integral part of Mexican culture. Today, Mexico is known globally for its tequila, and is one of the largest consumers and producers of tequila in the world. Spirits were led by launches in vodka (10%), whiskey (5%), and rum (white 9%, dark 6%). The UK, the US, Canada and Ireland are the main countries of origin for whiskey imports.

There is a financial benefit for importers as the local price of 15 Scotch whisky brands amounts to 5.1 times the import cost on average, signaling importers and distributors rake in exorbitant profits, according to Green Consumers Network in Korea.

Local importers pay 2,664 won (US$2.27) for 100 milliliters of Scotch whisky and sell it to distributors for 8,376 won, while consumers pay out 13,501 won, the group said.


Largest growth category: Brandy

Volume Change 2010-2011: 533.0

Alcohol plays a major role in Chinese society and their thirst for international brands continues to gain momentum. Alcohol in China has no negativity surrounding it and is involved in the majority of food occasions and the Chinese drink 11.6 litres per head a year of beer, wines and spirits.

Cognac, brandy and whisky were the main spirits making an impact in the region as three brands account for 50% imported spirits – Hennessy Cognac, Martel Cognac, and Chivas Regal whisky.

But international spirits consumption in China only accounts for four million cases compared to an estimated 900 million for the domestic clear spirit Baijiu.

Most recently the Chinese government is going to take actions to increase import of brandy from Armenia.

6. India

Largest growth category: Whisk(e)y

Volume Change 2010-2011: 570.7

“What you drink has become what you are,” says Moet Hennessy India’s Marketing Director Gaurav Bhatia.  “Typically ambitious professionals, who are considered aspirational figures among their contemporaries, now prefer single malt, driving home the aspirational value of the premium alcohol.”

Import of single malt Scotch into India more than doubled year on year in the first half of 2010, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

Single malt Scotch range starts at around Rs 4,000 and goes up to around Rs 70,000 depending on age. Deluxe Scotch whisky brands such as Diageo’s Johnnie Walker Black Label and Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Regal come for around Rs 3,500.

Moet Hennessy’s Glenmorangie along with Pernod Ricard’s Glenlivet and William Grant & Son’s Glenfiddich account for two-thirds of single malt consumption in India.

5. Brazil

Largest growth category: Whisk(e)y

Volume Change 2010-2011: 951.2


Brazil’s scotch imports jumped 56% in 2009. In Brazil whisky is a status symbol for the growing middle class (in the north-east of the country it is often drunk with coconut water over ice).

Exports to Brazil were up nearly 50% in 2010, reaching almost 10 million litres of pure alcohol, according the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

The city of Recife in Brazil is believed to have the highest per capita consumption of whisky in the world.

4. Germany

Largest growth category: Flavoured spirits

Volume Change 2010-2011: 1,000.5


  • The flavored alcoholic beverages market in Germany increased at a annual growth rate of 4.3% between 2004 and 2009. This has continued into 2011 with spirits beginning to become involved.
  • The pre-mixed spirits category led the flavored alcoholic beverages market in Germany in 2009, with a share of 96.3%.
  • A leading player in flavored alcoholic beverages market in Germany is Diageo.

3. Ukraine

Largest growth category: Vodka

Volume Change 2010-2011: 1,042.4



Despite a huge local market, vodka is also the largest growth category of imported spirits in the Ukraine due to the success of CEDC’s brands Green Mark and Zhuravli from Russia. The brands have benefited from the reduction of the Customs duty and the increase of the minimum retail price, which has closed the price gap with their main local competitors.

2. Russia

Largest growth category: Whisk(e)y

Volume Change 2010-2011: 1,067.3


Russia is the world’s largest overall spirits market, consuming 275 million nine-litre cases in 2009, of which domestically produced vodka accounted for 229 million cases. In the past 10 years, sales of imported spirits have increased 40 times, driven by rising incomes and the growth of the middle class and whisky has been a major player in this.

The biggest-selling single malts are Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. White Horse, The Famous Grouse and William Lawson’s led the pack in the blended segment in 2010, while the most popular premium blends include Johnny Walker Black Label, Chivas Regal and Dewar’s.

But there are peculiarities. Irish whiskeys have a disproportionately strong presence, because Jameson was one of the first brands to enter the market, in the early Nineties. And, apart from the ubiquitous Jack Daniel’s, North America is sorely under-represented.

1. United States

Largest growth category: Vodka

Volume Change 2010-2011: 3,945.1

Bruce Willis, Sobieski Vodka and a Freezer Mitt

The imported spirits market in the US was the largest growth market for imported spirits in 2011; it increased by 3.9m cases in 2011, beating its previous year’s growth of 3.5m cases. Imported vodka’s performance actually improved in 2008, 2009 and 2010, advancing by nearly 3 million cases in that period.

In 2010, Absolut enjoyed its best performance since 2006, growing by 3.2% to 4.63 million cases. Four brands dominate the imported vodka market: Absolut, Grey Goose, Stolichnaya and Ketel One. While four other imported vodka brands—Svedka, Pinnacle, Three Olives and Sobieski—has began to make their presence felt.

Growth in the US is being fuelled by a raft of new product launches, a recovering on-premise, and a better economic situation. General population growth continues to increase the numbers entering the drinking population.

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