In 2020, global exports of Scotch whisky were lower than they had been in a decade. According to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), US tariff hikes on imports and lockdowns to curb the pandemic caused the volume of Scotch whiskey exports to fall by 23% to £3.8 billion.
Scotch Whiskey Sales Bounce Back in 2021
The SWA has announced that the value of exports was 31% higher during the first 6 months of 2021 than it was in the same period of 2020. The volume of exports was reportedly up by even more, by 42%.
These numbers are positive news for the industry as the figures show strong signs of recovery even though the value is still 10% lower than 2019’s record figure of £2.2 billion. There is still much progress to be made to recover the lost growth caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and increase of US tariffs.
However, growth rates are promising, with sales growing at a faster rate from April to June 2021 compared with the same period in 2019.
Exports to the US Still Need Time to Recover
While sales have shown a strong recovery, exports to the US, which represents Scotch whisky's biggest export market in terms of value, are still down 34% for the first 6 months of 2021 compared to the same period of 2019.
The Trump administration imposed a tariff of 25% on imports of Scotch whiskey that came into effect in October 2019. The raised duty was a part of tariff increases due to a row between the US and the EU over subsidies given to Airbus.
Potential in the Asian Market
Exports to Asian markets showed a fast recovery during the second half of 2020, and numbers continued to rise over the first half of 2021. Particularly, China represents a growing opportunity for Scotch exporters, with sales for the first 6 months of 2021 already surpassing those for the whole of 2019 (2019 sales equated to £89 million while 2021 sales so far have reached £91 million). The latest figures demonstrate growth in exports to this region of 126%.
Industry experts have attributed this growth in sales to changing consumer habits. A new generation of drinkers are buying Scotch, and, as with all consumer products, there is a trend for consumers to seek more information about the product’s origin, production, and brand. In China, this trend is prevalent, and Scotch sales may be increasing in this region due to the rich history and traceability associated with Scotch compared to other alcoholic beverages.
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