Grokking 2019 Q1 Trends

Dear Client:

The latest bev alc trends from BW166 are in, and spirits servings were up 3.6% for the 12 months through March. Wine servings were slightly down for the period (-0.14%) and beer servings were down 0.22%.

Total consumer spending on alcohol was up 2.8% for the 12-month period to $252.8 billion compared to this time last year.  

PRICING TRENDS. Historically, beer has had it easier when it comes to taking price. However, the category’s ability to raise prices is softening, according to BW166. Meanwhile, wine has shown improvement in being able to push through price increases and spirits are showing some growth in pricing as well.

For the year through March, the price of a case of beer (24-12 oz. cans/bottles) off-premise was up 1.3%. The price of a bottle of wine increased by about 1% and spirits price (per 750 ml) was down 2.7% for the year period.

BW166 notes that the drop in spirits pricing “indicates a slight trading down in the spirits category as consumers increase consumption.”

DOMESTIC WINES OUTPACE IMPORTS. Looking at the first three months of 2019, the still wine segment was a drag on total wine volumes which were flattish at -0.55% for the quarter. Still wine volumes were down 1.6%, while sparkling volumes were up more than 6%.

Imported wines have been outpacing domestics, but now the shoe is on the other foot. Domestic wine volumes were up about 1% for the quarter, with still and sparkling reporting similar growth. Import volumes were down -0.56%, and as with the total category, still wine is the culprit. Still wine imports were down 4.4% while sparkling imports were up nearly 10% in the same period.

SPIRITS RESULTS A MIXED BAG. Overall, spirits volumes reported good growth in the first quarter of 2019, up nearly 4%. Whiskey volumes for the period exceeded its 12-month trend, up over 7% compared to 5.3% 12-month growth. Tequila and mezcal volume growth was in the double digits. Gin also reported strong growth in Q1 with volumes up 5.3%.

Vodka was flattish for the period and brandy volumes were down nearly 2%. Rum reported a real slump for the period with volumes down nearly 10%. The category had shown some recent growth, but trends have clearly softened again.


Earlier this week, Connecticut lawmakers approved a state revenue bill which includes new and/or higher taxes on a long list of items from alcohol to prepared meals.

The bill proposes to increase the current state excise tax on alcohol by 10%, which would generate an estimated $6 million annually, reports the New Haven Register.

In response, Distilled Spirits Council vp Jay Hibbard said: “The proposal is a massive tax increase on consumers that received no oversight or chance for public comment,” adding, “This backroom deal violates every tenet of good governance and will incentivize consumers to purchase alcohol in neighboring states.” As a result, he says, state revenues will be hurt. “This is a bad deal for consumers, and ultimately, state coffers.”

The bill will become the base for the state’s budget negotiations, per the New Haven Register, which has a June 5 deadline.


WE REGRET TO REPORT that Crillon Importers chairman and ceo Michael Roux died suddenly in his Florida residence Tuesday April 30. Michael was key to the development, distribution and success of many products in the spirits industry, including Absolut Vodka, Stolichnaya Russian Vodkas, Grand Marnier, Bombay Gin and Bombay Sapphire Gin. He was also very involved with charities such as Meals on Wheels, as well as establishing the Grand Mariner Foundation. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen Roux and son Maximilien.

WSWA ADDS TO FEDERAL AFFAIRS TEAM. Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America has hired Cody Tucker to join the federal affairs team as senior director. In this role, Cody will serve as a lobbyist representing the association to elected officials of both parties in both chambers of congress, as well as to executive branch agencies. He joins WSWA from the Progressive Policy Institute where he served as director of public affairs and communications.

TRUETT-HURST BOARD DIRECTOR RESIGNS. Truett-Hurst, Inc. has announced the resignation of Gerry Hansen from the company’s board of directors, who is leaving to focus on other pursuits, per a release. The company expects to review and consider potential replacement directors in the coming weeks.

ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY HIRES SENIOR WINEMAKER. Robert Mondavi Winery has hired Jeffrey Keene as their new senior winemaker. Jeffrey joins Mondavi from Knights Bridge Winery. In his new role he will help oversee production of Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve, To Kalon, Napa Valley, and Oakville wines at the Oakville winery.

Until Monday,

“They didn’t want it good, they wanted it Wednesday.” – Robert A. Heinlein

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