Tequila and Canned Cocktails Are Pretty Much Fueling the Booze Industry Now

A year-end study on alcohol sales in the U.S. shows very few category gains — and some concern for Scotch, Cognac and gin fans

Shots of various types of tequila on bar with lime wedge. While tequila sales continue to shine, other spirits categories are hitting a ceiling.
The alcohol industry's growth seems very dependent on tequila
Lisa Romerein / Getty

The tequila boom continues, but that’s the rare news for the drinks industry in the latest report by the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA). The report covers 17 states and jurisdictions within the U.S. and saw modest growth overall but some drinks categories in decline, at least by some metrics.

Per Just Drinks, the data showed a 3.2% decrease in spirits volumes (sold in nine-liter cases) during December 2022 when compared with 2021. By value, sales did go up 0.7% in December, while 2022 overall saw a slight decrease in volume but a 2.2% increase in value.

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One way to look at this data is that consumers may actually be drinking less but drinking more premium spirits — not necessarily a bad thing. But the growth here seems to be concentrating on just a few spirits categories. Tequila, spirits-based ready-to-drink cocktails and cachaca saw increased consumer interest, with the first two coming as no surprise to the industry; conversely, single malt Scotch and brandy/Cognac saw double-digit declines. And while some drinks brands like Diageo are seeing overall gains, those are happening outside of North America, which is by far the company’s most important market.

“Higher-end spirits is where the growth is in all categories in the U.S.,” as the industry publication Global Drinks Intel summarizes. “While Cognac’s performance in the country is concerning, gin brand owners will be wary of the category’s showing in 2022, even if the declines for cheaper gin have masked premium-and-above’s strengths in the U.S.”


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