Single Malt Surpasses £2bn Mark Despite Decline in Overall Scotch Sales

By | 20 February 2024

Single malt exports crossed the £2bn mark for the first time in 2023 due to increased demand for premium spirits in Far East emerging markets, despite a global decrease in Scotch whisky sales.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) released new data indicating a 9.5% drop in exports to £5.6bn as retail and bar demand slowed following post-pandemic supply replenishment.

Despite the current global cost of living crisis, sales levels were still 14% higher than in 2019, prior to the pandemic, according to SWA.

In general, the figures demonstrate a consistent long-term trend towards ‘premiumisation.’ Scotch enthusiasts are gradually opting for more expensive malts over cheaper blends.

The United States remained the biggest market for Scotch whisky by value, despite sales decreasing by 7% to £978m, followed by France, which dipped by 3% to £474m, and Singapore – a key distribution hub for the wider Asia-Pacific region – which climbed by 19% to £378m.

The volume of sales dropped by 19% year-on-year to the equivalent of 1.35 billion standard bottles but stayed 3% higher than the pre-pandemic level.

France held its spot as the top market by volume even though sales were down 15% to the equivalent of 174 million bottles, with India plunging by 24% to 167 million bottles, and the US falling by 7% to 127 million bottles.

Mark Kent, chief executive at the SWA, said: ‘We know that the Scotch whisky industry is remarkably resilient as we look at these numbers against the backdrop of rising costs for consumers and businesses, but the figures are a reminder once again that the Scotch whisky success story cannot be taken for granted.

‘We need to see more tangible support from government both at home and in our priority markets in order to continue to grow our export numbers, and the resultant investment, employment and economic benefits that come with that.

‘A cut to spirits duty in the spring Budget would be a step in the right direction, giving the industry platform at home to push forward with international growth.’

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to deliver his Budget on 6 March, his final scheduled Budget before the next General Election.

Kent added: ‘Government must also do away with any notion of restricting the marketing of Scotch whisky in Scotland, which would have a significant and lasting impact on the industry’s ability to generate future growth.’

Last month, the Scottish Government pledged a second consultation on its proposals to restrict alcohol advertising, following industry backlash. Concerns were raised that these broad proposals could negatively impact tourism and smaller producers.

The decrease in exports comes in the wake of financial reports from the two major players in the Scotch whisky industry.

In the previous week, Pernod Ricard, owner of Chivas Brothers, the second largest Scotch manufacturer and owner of brands such as Ballantine’s, Chivas Regal, and The Glenlivet, reported a 7% decrease in half-year sales to €6.6bn (£5.6bn), as orders dropped off after post-pandemic restocking.

Last month, Diageo, Scotland’s largest distiller and the maker of Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and J&B, pointed to cash-strapped consumers in Latin America and the Caribbean trading down as part of the reason for a 1.4% drop in sales to $11bn (£8.7bn).

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