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US Demand for Imported Whiskey Brands Continues to Grow

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Demand for imported whiskey

Despite the growing popularity of US whiskeys like bourbon and Tennessee whiskey in the United States as well as abroad, the demand for imported whiskey continues to grow. However, the import growth rate has slowed. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the value of imported whiskey in the United States increased by 2.6% to $1.7 billion in 2014. This increase compares to growth rates of 16.5% and 12.3% in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, the United States is the leading importer of Scotch whisky. However, Scotch whisky imports in the United States fell in 2014, as existing inventories met consumer demand instead of newly purchased stock.

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Imports in 1Q15

In the first quarter of 2015, US whiskey imports increased by 15.2% to $395.2 million from the corresponding quarter of the previous year. The increase in import value came despite a 0.9% decline in volumes. This is because of the premium categories of imported whiskeys. A lack of innovation and competition from US whiskey continues to affect imports of Canadian whisky. In 1Q15, Canadian whisky imports fell by 20.2% to $61.9 million.

The United States imports over 60.0% of its whiskey from the United Kingdom. In 1Q15, whiskey imported from the United Kingdom increased by 27.0% to $249.6 million. British multinational Diageo (DEO)(DGE.L) exports some of its key brands, like Johnnie Walker, to the US market. The company’s Buchanan’s brand is extremely popular with the Hispanic Community in the United States. Other whiskey brands—like Black Velvet, which is manufactured by Constellation Brands (STZ), and Jack Daniel’s, which is owned by Brown-Forman (BF.B)—also target the Hispanic demographic. For instance, in 2014, Jack Daniel’s sponsored a seven-city music concert series called Sala Siete that aimed to attract Hispanic consumers by supporting Latin music.

Constellation Brands makes up over 0.1% and ~0.2% of the portfolio holdings of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) and the iShares Russell 1000 Growth ETF (IWF), respectively.

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