Strong US dollar no match for whiskey fever

Bottles of Jack Daniel's whiskey
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Bottles of Jack Daniel's whiskey

Boom times in the American whiskey market and record exports helped spirits sales to grow in 2014, as the industry continues to take market share from beer, the Distilled Spirits Council said in a new report.

Spirits sales to suppliers rose 4 percent to $23.1 billion, and total U.S. volume growth increased 2.2 percent to 210 million cases last year, it said.

The trade group said total exports are projected to have risen 3.7 percent last year to $1.56 billion despite a jump in the dollar's value, which makes buying U.S. goods more expensive in other countries.

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Whiskeys are expected to make up roughly 70 percent of total U.S. spirit exports. The top export markets for American spirits are Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and France.

Last year, total whiskey volume rose 7.3 percent, with blended whiskey sales volume posting the greatest percentage gain. Blended whiskey sales volume jumped 42 percent from the prior period while that of Irish whiskey rose 9.1 percent. Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey were not far behind with a 7.4 percent gain. Continued interest in American whiskeys and new flavored whiskeys helped drive this growth.

Vodka volume ticked up just 1.6 percent while the flavored variety fell. Gin and rum volume both dropped year over year, while tequila volume rose 5 percent.

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"In the U.S. market, strong consumer interest in cocktails, along with continuing market access and modernization improvements, is providing the industry with a solid base for future growth," Distilled Spirits Council President and CEO Peter H. Cressy said in a statement.

Indeed, the popularity of cocktails are continuing to shift more consumers away from beer. The industry estimates it has taken 6.4 point of market share from beer since 2000, with each point of market share equaling about $650 million in supplier sales.