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Norwalk, Conn., (April 2, 2019) — Consumers are drinking less: Beverage alcohol consumption levels in the U.S. fell 0.8% for a second consecutive year in 2018, according to the Beverage Information Group’s Handbook Advance 2019. Declining beer sales held back the alcohol industry’s overall performance, as did slower sales in the wine category.

Distilled spirits continues to be the bright spot, achieving its 21th consecutive year of volume growth, up 2.0%. Irish whiskey was the big winner, increasing 9.9% to 4.5 million 9-liter cases, although the category’s growth has slowed from 17.8% in 2017 and 11.8% in 2018. American whiskey remains hot, with a 6.0% increase, driven by interest in straights and bourbons.

Tequila kept up its hot streak with a 7.3% gain to 18.6 million cases. The Brandy and Cognac category grew 6.5% in 2018 to 14.4 million cases, thanks in part to the premiumization trend, and expanded its share of the distilled spirits market slightly to 6.2%. Vodka managed a scant 1.1% increase, retaining its 33% market share, while gin and rum again posted declines.

The wine category was up 1.2%, to 348.8 million 9-liter cases, led by a 5.6% rise in consumption of sparkling wines and strong growth at the $15+ per-bottle price points. Wine may be challenged to remain relevant with consumers as it competes with the spirits and beer categories for share of beverage alcohol occasions.

Beer continues to struggle, with 2018 volumes decreasing 1.3% to 2.76 billion 2.25-gallon cases—the sixth consecutive year of declines. The craft, imported and flavored malt beverage (FMB) categories posted gains of 4% to 5%, but super-premium and premium beers fell 3.6% in 2018 to 358.0 million cases.

And while light beer still dominates the overall category, with a 42.6% share of market, it slid 3.8% in 2018 to 1.2 billion cases. The craft beer explosion in recent years has helped erode the light category, as U.S. consumers seek more flavor and variety in their brews.

About the Handbook Advance

The Handbook Advance provides the earliest and most complete data, statistics and analysis in the industry, reporting on preliminary projections of 2018 beverage alcohol sales and consumption.

The Handbook Advance 2019 hard copy or PDF edition is $1,150; Handbook/PDF with Excel file is $2,050 plus shipping. To purchase, go to or call Marybeth Came at 763-383-4400 ext. 2216.

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