Following a long period of decline in America, Straight American Whiskey continued its resurgence in 2008, the seventh straight positive year for the category. The force driving the resurgence started with super-premium and small batch/single barrel offerings and growth is now being sustained in the current economic environment by less expensive brands with consumers trading down. American Blended Whiskey has done little to build, or even maintain, their customer base. In today’s market, only price is on their side, which led the category to gain 0.1% to 5.1 million cases, results that haven’t occurred in this category in more than 30 years. Straight and Blended Whiskey combined posted a growth of 1.0% in 2008 reaching 20.1 million cases for the American Whiskey category.
The Straights category was aided by Blends’ first positive growth posting on the domestic front in the last 30 years. The category grew 1.4% in 2008 to end the year at 14.9 million cases. Jack Daniel’s grew at a rate of 1.0% while Jim Beam reported a 4.1% decline. In third position, Evan Williams rose 8.7%. Out of the top five brands the other only brand that lost cases in 2008 was Early Times (-5.5%), while Makers Mark continued its ascension with a strong 6.9% gain and a 57.1% jump over the past five years.
Accounting for 22.6 million cases in 1975, the Blended category has since lost more than three-quarters of its volume. A lack of premium offerings actually helped the category post results in the black in 2008 with consumers trading down from higher priced products and a reduction in discretionary spending. The two leading Blended Whiskeys—7 Crown (-0.6%) and Kessler (+1.7)—posted varied results last year and with a collective market share of 61.2%, they drive the category’s sales. The next three Blends consisting of McCormick, Kentucky Deluxe and Heaven Hill increased 2.8% collectively. With the exception of Old Thompson and Beam’s 8 Star, no other leading brand that we track posted an increase in sales in 2008.