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Video: Do you know the top (Canadian) spirits trends?

Watch Beam Global’s Whisky Chef Matt Jones create a Bacon Infused Old Fashioned using Alberta Premium Dark Horse.

By Jan Westcott

Volume growth was very broad with all major spirits categories and eight of 10 provinces experiencing higher sales than the previous year. Domestic spirits made from locally grown barley, corn, rye and wheat represented nearly 60% of total spirits consumption. Canadian consumer appetite for an ever wider range of tastes, flavours and drink experiences, however, helped propel imported spirits to a nearly 5% volume gain.

Calendar 2011 – 2012 Spirits Consumption (9 litres)

Domestic Spirits 10,340,951 10,410,573 +0.67%
Imported Spirits 6,785,914 7,114,544 +4.84%
Total Spirits 17,126,865 17,525,117 +2.33%

Source: Spirits Canada sales database

FBz_SpiritsSpirits sales benefited from continued economic recovery across most of the country and improved consumer confidence. The focus on the art and science of mixology and the creation of new and old spirits-cocktails continues to expand from its historical downtown urban core to bars, lounges and restaurants in cities large and small in every corner of the country. Innovative on-premise operators today spend as much time and effort creating their cocktail offerings as they do their food menus.

In addition, cocktail-themed entertainment at home is more in vogue today than any time since the mid-1950s “Rat Pack” martini era. Simple (two to three ingredients only), yet sophisticated cocktails, featured by home bartenders, are de rigueur at the best neighbourhood gatherings and family reunions. We’ve come a long way from the days of “red or white?”

Geographically, spirits volume growth was most robust in Alberta, Québec, Newfoundland & Labrador, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. Retailers in each of these jurisdictions have embraced various consumer-centric marketing and merchandising strategies to nurture and grow spirits within their sales outlets over the past few years, yielding very positive performance results.

Provincial/Territorial Spirits Consumption (9 Litres)

Province   2011   2012 Change
Alberta 2,757,569 2,902,014 +5.24%
Québec 2,354,442 2,433,585 +3.36%
Newfoundland & Labrador 425,712 439,695 +3.28%
Saskatchewan 757,425 781,547 +3.18%
Ontario 6,330,691 6,465,716 +2.13%
Manitoba 774,806 784816 +1.29%
PEI 83,342  83,933 +0.71%
British Columbia 2,653,587 2,657,727 +0.16%
Territories 89,022 89,217 +0.22%
Nova Scotia 568,059 562,611 -0.96%
New Brunswick 327,020 319,822 -2.20%

Source: Spirits Canada sales database

Lagging behind in volume growth are a number of jurisdictions with excessively high spirits commodity taxes that severely limit the level of brand support available to grow the local market.

It seems that, at least according to consumers (if not all professional bartenders), vodka can do wrong. Vodka, the most versatile of all spirits, remained the largest category of spirits sold in Canada. At the same time, very impressive growth rates for tequila and gin, in particular, demonstrate the breadth of spirit brand strength across all segments.


Category   2011 2012 Change  2012 Share
Vodka 4,766,932 4,895,313 +2.69% 27.9%
Whisky 4,628,288 4,701,665 +1.59% 26.8%
Rum 3,351,050 3,442,960 +2.74% 19.6%
Liqueurs 2,572,176 2,602,189  +1.17% 14.8%
Gin 728,319 764,580 +4.36% 4.4%
Brandy 587,964 587,824 -0.02% 3.4%
Tequila 277,596 309,947 +11.65% 1.8%
Miscellaneous 214,540 220,638 +2.84% 1.3%
Total   17,126,865 17,525,117 +2.33% 100%

Source: Spirits Canada sales database

With ongoing focus on strong brands that resonate with today’s adult consumers, progressive retailers and on-premise operators who take the time to know and understand both their customers and their products, a truly professional cadre of mixologists and bartenders, and continued regulatory modernization, 2013 is sure to build upon the successes of 2012. Enjoy in safety and responsibly!

Jan Westcott is president and CEO of Spirits Canada, the national trade association representing Canada’s major distillers, all of whom are licensed manufacturers and marketers of internationally recognized premium quality spirits products.