Whiskey and cream liqueurs represent the two most important spirits within the Irish drinks industry.
In 2013, the whiskey category recorded double digit growth in export sales and it is currently the leading premium spirit category worldwide. The International Wine and Spirits Report has ranked the whiskey category as the fastest-growing spirit in the world for the past 23 years.
The three biggest distilleries on the island of Ireland are Pernod Ricard’s Irish Distillers in Midleton, Co. Cork; Beam Inc’s Cooley Distillery, which is based in Louth; and Diageo’s Bushmills in Northern Ireland.
The category has seen several investments in domestic production capabilities in recent years, including a €200 million investment by Irish Distillers in its Irish operations to double capacity. This follows unprecedented success for Irish Distiller’s Jameson brand, which saw sales of Jameson top four million cases for the first time in 2012. William Grant & Sons, the owner of Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, are also investing in a new, state-of-the-art pot still whiskey and malt whiskey distillery in Tullamore town, bringing whiskey production back to Tullamore for the first time since the original distillery closed in 1954.
As well as the three biggest players in the category, smaller whiskey producers have also invested. This includes a €25 million project, undertaken by Walsh Whiskey and Ilva Saronna, in a new distillery in Co. Carlow, and a €10 million investment by the Teeling Whiskey Company to construct a new distillery in Dublin.
Baileys, the original cream liqueur, is spearheading growth in the cream liqueur category and accounts for the largest share in the Irish market. The brand sources 275 million litres of fresh Irish milk annually, from 1,500 selected and accredited Irish farms, to produce the fresh cream used in the manufacture of Baileys. A number of other firms, including Merrys, Terra and First Ireland Spirits are also selling innovative product and flavour offerings in this category.
Ireland is also home to Guinness, one of the most recognisable and iconic beer brands in the world. Diageo, which owns Guinness, and Heineken are Ireland’s two biggest players in beer.
A recent shift in consumer demand has seen the market for craft beers take off and Ireland’s craft beer category has experienced significant growth in recent years. The recent trajectory for the category will continue for a number of years as the Irish craft beer segment grows in capacity and capability to service the growing interest in the category internationally. Craft beer producers are beginning to export to a range of countries across Europe and beyond. In addition, a handful of breweries are looking to reach greater scale, leading to new investments. Molson Coors, for example, acquired the Franciscan Well brewery in Cork in 2012.
Cider making has a long tradition in Ireland, as the country’s fertile land and mild climate guarantees a rich harvest of apples. Ireland’s most recognised cider brand, Bulmers, which retails internationally under the Magners Original Irish Cider, is manufactured by C&C in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. They are made using traditional ingredients and a traditional style of manufacturing process and fermentation. The cider market is seeing similar trends to the beer category with a growth in consumption of craft cider drinks.