Whiskey Growth Continues, But Not Without Challenges

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18 May 2017 --- Technomic finds expanding whiskey selections on menus and back bars and high interest from Millennial consumers contributing to positive sales trends. One of the fastest-growing spirits categories at the bar is also the most complex for consumers to navigate and on-premise operators to manage.

Whiskey is gaining more space on the back bar and on menus at many establishments, but the number of brands, types and expressions presents challenges, according to Technomic’s On-Premise Whiskey: Growth Opportunities & Challenges in Restaurants & Bars Study.

“Restaurant and bar operators are eager to present a compelling whiskey selection, and the research shows they’re moving some other spirits off the back bar to make more room for whiskey. But many say it’s difficult to strike the proper balance of well-known brands, new offerings and local bottlings that can differentiate their establishments,” reports Donna Hood Crecca, study author and associate principal at Technomic. “Patrons are noticing the expanding selection and for some it’s overwhelming. They indicate it complicates the drink decision. However, engagement with the category is high and we see continued growth.”

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Younger legal-age consumers are highly engaged with whiskey in restaurants and bars and are more likely than their older counterparts to be actively increasing their knowledge of the spirit. These younger consumers say the whiskey attribute they now know more about is brand.
  • Vodka is among the spirits categories ceding back bar space to whiskey, according to bartenders.
  • Classic whiskey cocktails and using whiskey to put a new spin on a range of cocktails is the trend in whiskey drink selections on menus.
  • Bartenders report American whiskey is performing well in all segments, while flavored whiskey and Japanese whisky are notably trending up in select segments of the on-premise channel.

Technomic’s On-Premise Whiskey: Growth Opportunities & Challenges in Restaurants & Bars Study provides deep insights into whiskey at restaurants and bars, including research conducted with legal-age consumers as well as bartenders and on-premise operators.

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