According to GuestMetrics, based on its proprietary database of POS transactions of more than $8 billion dollars in transactions and more than 250 million checks from restaurants and bars across the United States, brown spirits took market share throughout 2012 and finished the year on a strong note. 

“In analyzing the over 3,000 spirits brands sold in on-premise, brown spirits took about a point of share from clear spirits in 2012 versus 2011,” says Bill Pecoriello, CEO of GuestMetrics LLC. “Based on our data, sales of brown spirits were up about 5 percent, while clear spirits were only up about 0.5 percent. They both took prices up about 2 percent, but the number of brown spirits drinks sold were up about 3 percent while drinks with clear spirits were down about 1.5 percent, indicating a meaningful difference in pricing power between brown and clear spirits right now,” Pecoriello continues. According to data from GuestMetrics, compared to the prior year, sales of brown spirits were up 4.5 percent in the first quarter, accelerated to 5 percent for the next two quarters, and closed out the final quarter of the year at 5.5 percent, while clear spirits sales were up 1 percent for the first three quarters and slightly negative in 4Q12.

“In analyzing the gains experienced by brown spirits, the gains were led by Bourbons & Blends, which gained about 120 basis points in share, followed by Irish and Scotch with share gains of 50 basis points and 20 basis points, respectively,” says Peter Reidhead, VP of Strategy and Insights at GuestMetrics. “On the flipside, for clear spirits, the largest share loss was experienced by Vodka, which lost about 90 basis points in share, followed by Rum and Cordials with share losses of 40 basis points and 35 basis points, respectively. Looking specifically at the quarters within the year, the share gain by Bourbons & Blends and share loss by Vodka both accelerated during the final quarter of the year, so we will be closely monitoring whether that momentum continues into 2013.” 

“In our minds, this underscores the importance of restaurant operators having an up-to-date understanding of the fastest growing spirits types so they can adjust their menus accordingly, which is particularly important given the fairly rapid shift in consumer tastes taking place in the spirits category right now,” says Brian Barrett, president of GuestMetrics. “Additionally, given the average price of $7.97 for a drink with brown spirits is about a 5 percent premium over the $7.63 average price for a drink with clear spirits, dialing up the focus on brown spirits on menus could be an especially attractive value proposition for restaurant operators to consider.”  

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