Business is good.” That’s the general response from retailers across the country when commenting on their 1997 sales. And the latest industry statistics bear them out, according to the Adams Business Media Research Database.
Total retail dollars generated by sales of wine, beer and distilled spirits topped $100 billion for the first time ever, registering a 1.6% increase in 1997 compared to 1996. Wine dollar sales grew almost 5% to $13 billion; spirits garnered sales of $34.1 billion, gaining 2.2%, and beer sales were more than $53 billion, up 0.4%.
These dollar increases reflect an interesting overall trend across all segments of the industry. For example, among distilled spirits, total consumption was down slightly — 0.5% — at 137.8 million 9-liter cases. However, higher-end products, such as cognac, single malt Scotch, imported gin and vodka and superpremium brands across all categories had increased sales. The same holds true in the wine segment. While total consumption of wine was up 1.8%, premium varietal wines generally grew at much heftier rates. And while total beer consumption rose a modest 1%, the higher-priced imports had sales gains of 13.5%. Americans, it seems, are spending more money for higher-priced beverage alcohol products.
Still, according to the age-old adage: “The devil is in the details.” So even while generalizing about certain trends, there are products in every category and at every price point that, for a variety of reasons, have either fallen behind or outpaced their respective competitors. And while identifying consumption trends is helpful, actual brand activity is what generates the bottom line. Thus, the rationale behind “Growth Brands,” which uses the latest industry results to shed light on those brands that have demonstrated noteworthy growth over the past few years.
Of the four categories of Growth Brands, Fast Track represents the most demanding set of criteria for brands that have been on the market a minimum of five years. Among wines and spirits, these are brands whose sales exceeded 100,000 9-liter cases in 1997 while having also demonstrated double-digit growth over each of the past four years. Domestic beers included in the Fast Track must have exceeded 9 million 2.25 gallon cases in 1997 with double-digit growth over each of the past four years. Imported beers included in the Fast Track met the same criteria, with their sales having exceeded 1.5 million 2.25 gallon cases in 1997.
Other brands that have shown significant growth over the past few years, but have not yet been on the market for a full five years, have been designated as Rising Stars.
In addition, in order to highlight traditionally top-selling brands that have consistently grown over the past five years, we’ve created an Established Growth Brands category. Because these brands are already operating from huge sales bases, their percentage gains are often modest relative to their overall case volume, even though these brands have had substantial sales increases and are often leaders among their respective segments.
Finally, there are brands that have had one or two years of sales declines since 1992, but have nevertheless bounced back over the past few years with healthy growth to have a positive impact in the marketplace. We have termed these products Comeback Brands, and they include some of the best-selling brands of wine, beer and spirits in the industry.