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American craft distillers leading growth in US spirits industry, report finds

Craft spirit producers in the United States are continuing to outperform the country's larger spirits market, a new report from the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) shows.


The association's latest craft spirits data project report, compiled in collaboration with tech services company Park Street, report found that the American craft spirits category reached more than 14 million nine-litre cases and US$7.9 billion in 2022. It recorded a growth rate of 5.3 per cent in value and 6.1 per cent in volume – ahead of the larger US spirits market.


The number of active craft distillers in the US rose by 2.4 per cent in the year to reach a total number of 2,753. ('Craft distillers' are defined by the ACSA as licensed distilled spirits producers that removed under 750,000 proof gallons, or 394,317 nine-litre cases, from bond, market themselves as craft, are not openly controlled by a large supplier, and have no proven violation of the ACSA Code of Ethics.) The sector increased its value share in the overall spirits market to 7.7 per cent (up from 7.5 per cent in 2021), while its volume share remained steady at 4.9 per cent.


Export volumes for craft spirits surpassed pre-pandemic levels, reaching 171,000 nine-litre cases compared with 2019's 155,000. However, these numbers are still far below the 566,000 cases recorded in 2017, before tariffs were introduced on spirits exports in 2018 amid a trade dispute between the United States and the European Union during Donald Trump's presidency.


Despite economic headwinds, the report found companies were consistently reinvesting in their businesses; the total amount invested in 2022 increased by 6.5 per cent year-on-year to a total of US$880 million. It also noted that investment and operational priorities changed with the size of company, with small producers working to increase sales in their home states, larger spirits producers placing more emphasis on exports, and medium-sized producers leading growth on almost all fronts.


The report also said that certain states were "craftier than others", with California (245 distilleries), New York (210), Texas (163), Pennsylvania (117), and Washington (156) leading the pack. These top five states account for 32.4 per cent of all active US craft distillers, with the next five states – Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, and Oregon – accounting for 18.5 per cent.


Overall, craft distillers are now making more domestic sales outside their home states. In 2022 52.6 per cent of business took place outside the home state, while 47.4 per cent took place inside it (of which 53 per cent happened at the distillery site). This home-state sales figure increases to 93.1 per cent for small producers, the bracket that 89 per cent of all US craft distillers fall into.

18 January 2024 - Bethany Brown