Spirit trends have improved in the on-premise channel in recent weeks, driven by improved traffic trends for the channel as well as accelerated share gains for spirits versus total alcohol beverage, according to GuestMetrics, which gathers data from POS systems from restaurants and bars across the U.S.
Traffic was up 0.3 percent during the past month, versus a sharp drop of 1.8 percent during the first quarter. The combination of these two factors is quite encouraging for the category; the on-premise channel has been a drag on supplier performance thus far in 2014 and so far the third quarter shows signs of improvement.
Craft spirits continue to grow rapidly and appear to be gaining momentum; craft spirit share was up 1.9 percent during the most recent four weeks versus up 1.4 percent in the first quarter and 1.7 percent in the second quarter.
In the four weeks ending Sept. 7, spirits category volume is up 1 percent (dollar sales up 3.2 percent on healthy price/mix) following volume growth of 1.9 percent (dollar sales up 3.9 percent) in the prior month, significantly better than the volume decline of 0.6 percent during the first half of 2014.
Brown spirits continue to take share, with bourbon/blends volume up 14 percent and Irish volume up 10 percent.
Bar/club channel still has seen the weakest traffic in recent weeks, while late night still appears to be the weakest day part. Casual dining, however, finally improved, and lodging is leading the growth.
While improving consumer confidence is a key ingredient of the improved traffic trends, sister company Consumer Edge Research recently reported a pullback in consumer confidence during the second half of September—even though September was still better than August—likely driven by headlines of increased geo-political tensions. Analysts will have to watch whether the current improved traffic trends are sustained into the key holiday period.