Things are looking up for American craft spirits producers.

This past week two major reports were released showing that they’re winning over consumers.

In 2016, U.S. craft spirits sold $3-billion in case sales, according to the 2017 Craft Spirits Data Project completed by the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA), Park Street, and the IWSR. That’s nearly six million cases. (View the full presentation.)

In a separate report,  Canadian-based Eau Claire surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers and discovered they prefer the methods of craft distillers. According to the survey, more than 84% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that it is important to know where your food comes from. Interestingly, while the majority said they’re willing to pay more for craft spirits.

Honestly, the survey provides a case for Big Bourbon, which is as local as it gets, with the majority of its corn and wheat coming from local farmers. That’s why “craft” should really be defined by volume vs. method. (ASCA’s voting members must be independent, licensed distillers annually removing fewer than 750,000 proof gallons.)

Furthermore, I see and hear about a lot of craft distillers struggling. It’s expensive to make it as a distiller. But the numbers clearly show the craft genre as a whole is growing and doing quite well.

Key findings in Craft Spirits Data Project (from ACSA press release)

  1. The craft distilling industry sold nearly 6 million cases in 2016, up 18.5% in volume over 2015, with $3 billion in sales and 25% growth by value. The U.S. craft spirits market volume (cases) reached 5.8m cases in retail sales in 2016, growing at an annual growth rate of 18.5%. In value terms, the market reached $3.0 billion in sales, growing at an annual growth rate of 25.0%. The market share of U.S. craft spirits reached 2.6% in volume and 3.8% in value in 2016, up from 1.0% (volume)/1.2% (value) in 2011 and 2.2% (volume)/3.0% (value) in 2015.
  2. The number of active craft distilleries in the U.S. grew by 20.8%, with 1,589 distilleries. The number of active craft distillers in the U.S. grew by 20.8% over the past twelve months to 1,589 as of August, 2017.
  3. Employment in the craft spirits industry grew by 47.8% over the past twelve months, with nearly 6,000 new full-time jobs. As of August 2017, the industry employed almost 19,600 full-time employees, an average of 10.5 employees per distillery.
  4. Industry investments are on pace to double in 2017. As of August, 2017, industry investments reached $600 million in just nine months, up from $398 million for the entire 2016 calendar year.  These investments primarily covered the build out of tasting rooms and other visitor experiences, equipment to increase production capacity, and associated labor costs.
  5. Exports are up 8.2% since 2015, with more than half a million cases exported. Exports of U.S. craft spirits reached 566,000 cases in 2016, adding more than 8.8% of additional volume to U.S. craft distillers’ total sales. 2016 exports grew by 8.2% versus 2015.
  6. Distillery and tasting room sales make up 34% of all sales for small craft distilleries, while out of state sales make up 58% for larger craft distilleries. Direct sales at the distillery are important for all craft distillers but especially important for small craft producers (between 0 and 10,000 proof gallons removed from bond annually). Direct sales make up 34% of all total sales across all craft distilleries. Out of state business is particularly important for large producers (between 100,001 and 750,000 proof gallons removed from bond annually), accounting for more than 58% of the total business.
  7. Some states are “craftier” than others, with California, New York, Washington, Texas, and Colorado leading the pack. Geographically, the market remains concentrated. The top five states by number of craft distilleries – CA (148), NY (123), WA (106), TX (86) & CO (80) — make up 34.2% of U.S. craft distiller universe, and the next five states — OR, PA, NC, OH, FL — comprise an additional 17.8% of the market.  The remaining states represent 48.0% of the market.