How the Big Spirits Companies are Stacking Up in 2019

Dear Client:

The US spirits category’s underlying growth is running at about 6% in value and 3.5% in volume in 2019, according to a recent note from Bernstein analyst Trevor Stirling.

For the first three months of 2019, here’s how the big spirits companies ranked by volume growth:

  • Campari, 5.3%
  • Sazerac, 4.9%
  • Diageo, 3.7%
  • Constellation Brands, 3.2%
  • Beam Suntory, 2.7%
  • Brown-Forman, 2%
  • Pernod Ricard, 1.3%
  • Remy Cointreau, 1.2%
  • Bacardi USA, 0.1% (note: NABCA does not include Patron in the Bacardi data)
  • Heaven Hill, -0.8%

CAMPARI GOING STRONG. Since the start of 2018, Campari has consistently outperformed the market, according to Trevor. Espolon was the “biggest single contributor to growth” on an absolute basis, followed by Skyy, Wild Turkey and Aperol, per the note.

For more specific brand performances, see WSD 05-07-2019.

DIAGEO BACK ON TRACK. After about eight years growing below the market (with a few exceptions), Diageo is now growing in line with the overall market at about 3.7%. Trevor notes that Diageo’s growth is probably even higher, because Casamigos is not included in NABCA data and the current data includes one month of the brands that were recently sold to Sazerac.

Smirnoff is in decline (-2.5%) but Ciroc and Ketel One are up. In fact, Ketel One was up a whopping 20% thanks to the success of the Botanicals line. Though Trevor cautions “it remains to be seen whether these variants have sustainable power.”

Captain Morgan (1.1%) and Crown Royal (12.3%), the company’s No.2 and No.3 volume contributors respectively, also reported growth. Bulleit is still growing well at 12.1% and Johnnie Walker “demonstrated impressive growth,” up 13%, writes Trevor.

ABSOLUT, JAMESON PERFORMANCE CAUSE FOR CONCERN. Pernod Ricard growth is lagging behind the market and has been for most of the last three years, according to Trevor. He outlined two potential reasons for the company’s modest 1.3% growth in the first three months of 2019: 1) planned destocking at the distributor level spilled over into retail, or 2) a slowdown in demand for Absolut (-4.6%) and Jameson (up 7%), which are the company’s top two brands by volume and value share.

Malibu reported solid growth of 4% and smaller brands like Olmeca Altos, Redbreast Irish whiskey and Del Maguey mezcal are up double digits.

REMY SHOWS IMPROVEMENT. Remy Cointreau’s growth is slightly below Pernod’s at 1.2%, but it is showing improvement over 2018 growth, notes Trevor, adding that NABCA does not capture the full growth of the cognac category and Remy Martin in particular.

In fact, from Remy’s perspective the company’s volume and value growth in the US was “substantially above” the overall US spirits market, per the company’s recent earnings [see WSD 04-24-2019].


Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced plans to reintroduce a bill to remove cannabis from the controlled substances list, while Rep. Hakeem Jeffries will introduce the House version of the bill, per Marijuana Business Daily.

In addition to removing cannabis from the controlled substances, the bill would also set aside a portion of industry income tax revenues for small loans for women and minority-owned cannabis businesses.

You may recall, at the beginning of this year, Rep. Earl Blumenauer filed a similar bill that would allow federal permits to be issued for cultivating, packaging, selling and importing cannabis [see WSD 01-14-2019].

MEANWHILE, at the state level, Illinois may be the next to legalize recreational use. Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker announced details of a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state. The bill would allow residents over 21 to possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrates as well as be able to carry up to a half-gram of pot-infused products like edibles, reports a local publication.

In addition, the state also plans to use an automated system to expunge marijuana convictions from criminal records. “We are taking a major step forward to legalize adult use cannabis and to celebrate the fact that Illinois is going to have the most equity-centric law in the nation,” said Gov. Prtizker during a press conference.


J. LOHR VINEYARDS & WINES NAMES NEW WINEMAKER. J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines has promoted Brenden Wood from assistant winemaker to red winemaker. The position was formerly held by Steve Peck, who was promoted in September to director of winemaking. In his new role, Brenden will be responsible for all tiers of red wine in the winery’s portfolio. He has been working at J. Lohr for 15 years.

CRIMSON WINE GROUP ANNOUNCES LEADERSHIP CHANGES. Crimson Wine Group has announced several promotions and additions to the company’s leadership team. In the sales team, Tina Mahaffey joins the organization as vp-west, Aaron Crespin has been promoted to director of sales-central and Stacy MacKelvie has been appointed regional manager-pacific northwest. Kim Benson joins as vp of finance, reporting directly to cfo Karen Diepholz.

WINESELLERS LTD. APPOINTS THREE VPS. Winesellers Ltd. has appointed three of their current directors to the title of vice president. Valerie Lynch-Giroux, who has been with Winesellers Ltd. for 15 years, has been named vp of east coast region sales. Jim Stover will be the new vp of retail chains & central region sales, and Lee Schlesinger has been named vp of portfolio management & education.

PENFOLDS COLLABORATES WITH THIENOT CHAMPAGNE HOUSE. In celebration of their 175th anniversary, Treasury Wine Estates’ Penfolds has collaborated with Champagne House Thienot to create three celebratory Champagnes; 2012 Champagne Thienot x Penfolds Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cuvee, Champagne Thienot x Penfolds Blanc de Blancs, and Champagne Thienot x Penfolds Blanc de Noirs. The first release, Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cuvee, will be available after June 2019 at a suggested retail price of $200. The other two Champagnes will be released in 2020.

STOLEN SPIRITS UNVEILS STOLEN X. Stolen Spirits has unveiled Stolen X, a whiskey based on a pre-prohibition spirits known as “Rock & Rye.” It is made with straight American rye whiskey, blended with organic raw honey and orange peel and bottled at 80 proof. It is now available on and off premise at a suggested retail price of $25.

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Until Monday,

“Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.” – Evelyn Waugh

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