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Scotch whisky exports fall as drinkers ‘trade up’

Whisky consumers are drinking less, but preferring higher quality Scotch

Whisky leaders blamed consumers “trading up” to premium brands as sales fell in the US and India, leading to a slide in first half exports.

Exports by value for the six months to the end of June came in at £2.57 billion, a fall of £95.8 million, or 3.6% on previous year. Volumes were down by 20%.

The Scotch Whisky Association said the data reflected some consumers “trading up” to more premium brands, but also drinking less alcohol overall. It also pointed out 2022 was a record year for global sales of Scotch whisky.

Despite lower demand, the US remains the largest market by value at £437m, down from £460m in the first half of last year.

Sales to France, the second biggest, were up 4% to £235m while sales to Asia rose significantly to partly offset declines elsewhere. Singapore moved into third place with 59% growth to £165m. Taiwan was up 21.4% to £149m, and China, despite its economic woes, saw 40% growth to £135m.

India, however was 28% lower at £94m from £131 million in the first six months of 2022.

The SWA continues to press India to reduce its 150% tariff on Scotch whisky which could swell sales to £1bn within five years.

All top ten markets, apart from Turkey, saw a fall.

Mark Kent, SWA chief executive, said: “Around the world, we continue to see the same trend — consumers drinking less overall and switching to higher quality spirits like Scotch whisky.

“Premiumisation in the spirits category didn’t start during Covid-19, but the pandemic certainly accelerated the trend, and it remains the case that consumers are trading up, enjoying premium spirits, and consuming fewer units of alcohol. Scotch whisky remains well placed to benefit from this shift.”

Mr Kent warned the government against taking Scotch for granted and described the recent 10.1% rise in excise duty as putting distillers at a “competitive disadvantage”.

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