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US Dark Spirits market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Dark Spirits market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry and how fast are its rates of growth? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Definition

This Report includes dark spirits sold for home preparation and/or consumption. The following types of dark spirits are analyzed:

  • Whiskey/whisky, which includes the following subsegments: American Kentucky bourbon, American Tennessee whiskey, other American whiskeys (straight, blended, malt, or non-malt), American rye whiskey, Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, Canadian whisky, White whiskey/moonshine, flavored whiskey
  • Brandy and cognac, as well as Armagnac. The forecast data displayed in this Report is for the entire distilled spirits category. Market size and forecast data includes both white/ light and dark rums.

Mintel consumer data focuses on consumer attitudes and behaviors toward dark rum only. Attitudes and behaviors toward white/light spirits will be included in Mintel’s White Spirits – US, December 2017.

This Report excludes the following categories, which will be covered in Mintel’s White Spirits – US, December 2017:

  • Vodka
  • Rum
  • Tequila
  • Gin

Dollar sales data in this Report includes all distilled spirits segments (dark and white), while volume sales data solely covers dark spirits. This includes only the whiskey/whisky and brandy segments. Total rum is included in the volume sales data for white spirits in Mintel’s White Spirits – US, December 2017 Report, as subsegments (white/ light, dark/black, golden/amber, spiced) could not be separated.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Megan Hambleton, a leading analyst in the Beverage sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The distilled spirits category in its entirety continues to see strong sales growth. Dark spirits drive a large portion of that growth as whiskies and brandies saw booms in popularity due to interest in premium and craft spirit offerings. Strong seasonality favoring fall and winter months combined with limited consumption among women will likely hinder total category growth. Brands should connect with consumers with authentic stories of heritage and introduce dark spirits to new consumers through cocktail creation. Megan Hambleton
Beverage Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • The issues
          • The high cost of spirits motivates consumers to stick to brands they know
            • Figure 1: Dark spirit important attributes, spirit purchasing behaviors among dark spirit consumers, September 2018
          • Scotch is flat but that’s not the whole story
            • Figure 2: US volume sales of whiskey/whisky, by type, 2013-18
          • Craft rum is still in its infancy
            • Figure 3: Dark spirit brand purchases, September 2018
          • Consumers are drinking less
            • Figure 4: Total per capita US alcohol consumption, 2012-20
          • The opportunities
            • American whiskey thrives
              • Consumers are experimenting and thirsty for more information on spirits
                • Figure 5: Reasons for drinking more spirits, by dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
              • Connect with dark spirit drinkers on-premise
                • Figure 6: On-premise alcohol attitudes, by dark spirit consumers, September 2018
              • Importance of dark spirit attributes varies by the brands consumers purchase
                • Figure 7: Dark spirit important attributes, by brand type consumers, September 2018
              • What it means
              • The Market – What You Need to Know

                • American whiskey, Irish whiskey, and cognac stand out in the market
                  • Other drinks rise up with beer’s decline
                    • Cannabis is a big unknown for alcohol companies
                      • Spirit brands must adapt to iGen preferences
                      • Market Size and Forecast

                        • Continued growth of spirit sales
                          • Figure 8: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of distilled spirits, at current prices, 2013-23
                          • Figure 9: Total US sales and forecast of distilled spirits, at current prices, 2013-23
                      • Market Breakdown

                        • American and Irish whiskey takes market to new highs
                          • Figure 10: US volume sales and forecast of dark spirits, by segment, 2013-23
                          • Figure 11: US volume sales of whiskey/whisky, by type, 2013-18
                          • Figure 12: US volume sales of whiskey/whisky, by type, 2013-18
                          • Figure 13: US volume sales of whiskey/whisky, by type, market share, 2013-18
                      • Market Perspective

                        • Premium mixers encourage AH spirit consumption
                          • Beer remains supreme but is starting to falter
                            • Producers raise a glass to wine’s growth
                              • Innovation keeps the FMB market fresh
                                • Figure 14: Total US volume sales and forecast of flavored malt beverages, 2013-23
                              • On-premise alcohol consumption falls
                                • Figure 15: Reasons for drinking AH instead of AFH, by generation, January 2018
                                • Figure 16: US volume sales of dark and white distilled spirits, by channel, 2013-17
                              • White spirit innovation could threaten whiskey’s growth
                              • Market Perspective Deep Dive: Cannabis

                                • Cannabis: alcohol companies’ biggest threat or opportunity?
                                  • Figure 17: Cannabis consumer behaviors, June 2018
                                  • Figure 18: Attribute association, cannabis vs spirits, June 2018
                              • Market Factors

                                • Number of distilleries reaches all-time high
                                  • Unsafe at any proof?
                                    • iGens will reshape the alcoholic beverage market
                                        • Figure 19: Distribution of population aged 21+, 2018-23
                                    • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                                      • Growing dark spirit brands take risks
                                        • Scotch starts retooling its image
                                          • Trade war is a buzzkill for American whiskey
                                            • Tech brings new opportunities for spirits
                                            • What’s Working?

                                              • Jameson and Jim Beam embrace beverage blurring
                                                • Crown Royal propels Canadian whisky market
                                                    • Figure 20: Purchase intent, Crown Royal Texas Mesquite Blend
                                                    • Figure 21: Crown Royal Texas Mesquite Blend vs all dark spirits: product perception
                                                  • Can’t stop cognac
                                                    • Figure 22: Cognac cocktails
                                                  • Bourbon is the base spirit for trendy cocktails
                                                    • Figure 23: Change in incidence of dark spirits as an ingredient in cocktails, Q2 2015-Q2 2018
                                                    • Figure 24: Bourbon cocktails with unique ingredients
                                                • What’s Struggling?

                                                  • Scotch looks to expand its consumer base
                                                    • Popularity of craft products is detrimental for value spirits
                                                      • Figure 25: Percent change in 9-liter cases sold, 2012-17
                                                    • Trade war dampens thriving whiskey market but will consumers benefit?
                                                      • Rum sales soften; brands take two different approaches to growth
                                                        • A sobering future?
                                                          • Figure 26: Total per capita US alcohol consumption, 2012-20
                                                          • Figure 27: Social media mentions of “Dry January,” 2013-18
                                                      • What’s Next?

                                                        • Ecommerce remains a hurdle to overcome
                                                          • Figure 28: Spirit purchasing behaviors, “I have purchased spirits online,” among all spirit/cocktail drinkers, select dark spirit brand type purchases, September 2018
                                                        • Enjoy a 12-year bourbon “aged” in minutes
                                                          • Japanese whiskey will either thrive or die
                                                            • What do Jay-Z, Metallica, and Bob Dylan have in common?
                                                            • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                              • Spirit attitudes and behaviors depends on brand preferences
                                                                • Younger men are core consumers; opportunities exist to connect with younger women
                                                                  • Barrier to spirit trial is lower when drinking AFH
                                                                  • Dark Spirit Consumer Segmentation

                                                                    • Overview
                                                                      • Segment definitions
                                                                        • Brandy/cognac
                                                                          • Canadian whisky
                                                                            • Bourbon
                                                                              • Scotch
                                                                                • Irish whiskey
                                                                                • Alcoholic Beverages Consumed

                                                                                  • Dark spirits are primarily an “also” beverage
                                                                                    • Figure 29: Alcoholic beverages consumed, most vs also drink, September 2018
                                                                                  • Dark spirit drinker demographic profile
                                                                                    • Figure 30: Alcoholic beverages consumed, any drink, drinker demographics indexed against all alcoholic beverage drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                • Alcoholic Beverage Consumption by Occasion

                                                                                  • White and dark spirits compete for similar occasions
                                                                                    • Figure 31: Alcohol consumption by occasion, correspondence analysis, September 2018
                                                                                    • Figure 32: Alcohol consumption by occasion, correspondence analysis, September 2018
                                                                                • Dark Spirit Purchases

                                                                                  • Bourbon leads the dark spirits market
                                                                                    • Figure 33: Dark spirit purchases, September 2018
                                                                                    • Figure 34: Repertoire analysis, dark spirit purchases, among those who have purchased in the past six months, September 2018
                                                                                  • Men under 45 are core dark spirits drinkers
                                                                                    • Figure 35: Dark spirit purchases, by age and gender, September 2018
                                                                                  • Hispanics are an important potential market for scotch brands
                                                                                    • Figure 36: Dark spirit purchases, by race/ethnicity, September 2018
                                                                                • Dark Spirit Brand Purchases

                                                                                  • Rum can look up for growth
                                                                                    • Figure 37: Dark spirit brand purchases, September 2018
                                                                                  • Younger drinkers purchase a variety of brands
                                                                                    • Figure 38: Dark spirit brand purchases, by age, September 2018
                                                                                • Dark Spirit Engagement

                                                                                  • Scotch drinkers are highly passionate consumers
                                                                                    • Figure 39: Dark spirit engagement by type, September 2018
                                                                                • Dark Spirit Important Attributes

                                                                                  • Brand familiarity drives most dark spirits purchases
                                                                                    • Figure 40: Dark spirit important attributes, September 2018
                                                                                    • Figure 41: Dark spirit important attributes, by select dark spirit type consumers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Craft claims less important among popular brand drinkers
                                                                                    • Figure 42: Dark spirit important attributes, by brand type consumers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Consumers drinking more look for quality cues
                                                                                    • Figure 43: Dark spirit important attributes, by changes in spirit consumption, September 2018
                                                                                  • Occasions, not quality cues, are important for younger women
                                                                                    • Figure 44: Dark spirit important attributes, by age and gender, September 2018
                                                                                    • Figure 45: Online Ad, “make your Own Rules”
                                                                                • Dark Spirit Drinkers’ Purchasing Behaviors

                                                                                  • Break dark spirit drinkers out of their routine
                                                                                    • Figure 46: spirit purchasing behaviors, among dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Value dark spirit drinkers need guidance
                                                                                    • Figure 47: spirit purchasing behaviors, by brand type consumers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Opportunity to increase brand engagement among dark rum drinkers
                                                                                    • Figure 48: spirit purchasing behaviors, by dark spirit type purchasers, September 2018
                                                                                • Spirit Attitudes

                                                                                  • Cocktails can be an entry point into higher dark spirit tiers
                                                                                    • Figure 49: Spirit attitudes, by dark spirit brand type consumers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Younger dark spirit drinkers enjoy new experiences
                                                                                    • Figure 50: Spirit attitudes, by age, among dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Brands will have difficulty reengaging lapsed consumers
                                                                                    • Figure 51: Spirit attitudes, by changes in spirit consumption, among dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                • Dark Spirit Drinkers and Health

                                                                                  • “Soft” health claims appeal to dark spirit drinkers
                                                                                    • Figure 52: Alcohol health innovation interest, by dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Increase dark spirit consumption among women through natural/organic products
                                                                                    • Figure 53: Alcohol health innovation interest, by gender, among dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                • Dark Spirit Drinkers and Low-alcohol Beverage Attitudes

                                                                                  • A third of dark spirit drinkers would have low-alcohol drinks again
                                                                                    • Figure 54: Interest in/experience with low-alcohol products, among dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                    • Figure 55: Low alcohol beverage attitudes, by dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                • Dark Spirit Drinkers’ On-premise Attitudes

                                                                                  • Target dark spirit drinkers on-premise
                                                                                    • Figure 56: On-premise alcohol attitudes, by dark spirit consumers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Dark rum consumers experiment on-premise
                                                                                    • Figure 57: On-premise alcohol attitudes, by select dark spirit types, September 2018
                                                                                  • High-end/super-premium brand drinkers are also foodies
                                                                                    • Figure 58: On-premise alcohol attitudes, by dark spirit brand type consumers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Experimentation is an experience for women/younger dark spirit drinkers
                                                                                    • Figure 59: On-premise alcohol attitudes, by age, among dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                    • Figure 60: On-premise alcohol attitudes, by gender, among dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                • Changes in Spirit Consumption

                                                                                  • Spirit consumption is stable among dark spirit drinkers
                                                                                    • Figure 61: Changes in spirit consumption, by dark spirit type drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                    • Figure 62: Demographic profile, dark spirit drinkers drinking spirits more/less, indexed against all dark spirit consumers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Experimentation is driving increased consumption
                                                                                    • Figure 63: Reasons for drinking more spirits, by dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                  • Very few dark spirit consumers are switching to other alcohol types
                                                                                    • Figure 64: Reasons for drinking less spirits, by dark spirit drinkers, September 2018
                                                                                • Spirit Format Consumption by Occasion

                                                                                  • Spirit with single mixer is the most versatile format
                                                                                    • Figure 65: Spirit format consumption by occasion, among consumers who drink spirits by select format September 2018
                                                                                    • Figure 66: Spirit format consumption by occasion, among consumers who drink spirits by select format, September 2018
                                                                                  • Dark spirit drinkers keep it neat
                                                                                    • Figure 67: Spirit format consumption by occasion, among consumers who drink spirits by select format, dark spirit consumer vs white spirit consumer comparison, September 2018
                                                                                • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                  • Data sources
                                                                                    • Sales data
                                                                                      • Fan chart forecast
                                                                                        • Consumer survey data
                                                                                          • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                                            • Mintel Menu Insights
                                                                                              • Purchase Intelligence
                                                                                                • Mintel Market Sizes
                                                                                                  • Mintel Food and Drink shopper segmentation
                                                                                                    • Social media methodology
                                                                                                      • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                                        • Abbreviations
                                                                                                        • Appendix – The Market

                                                                                                            • Figure 68: Total US sales and forecast of distilled spirits, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2013-23
                                                                                                            • Figure 69: US volume sales and forecast of dark spirits, 2013-23
                                                                                                            • Figure 70: US volume sales and forecast of dark spirits, by segment, 2013-23
                                                                                                            • Figure 71: Total US volume sales of dark spirits, by segment, 2016 and 2018
                                                                                                            • Figure 72: US volume sales of dark and white distilled spirits, by channel, 2013-17
                                                                                                            • Figure 73: US volume sales of dark and white distilled spirits, by channel, 2013-17