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North America: craft alcohol export opportunities

Market opportunity: Craft alcohol

Key details

Opportunity: Craft alcohol

Country: North America

Sector: Food & drink


North America is one of the most important markets for Scotland’s drinks industry.

Many of Scotland’s Scotch whisky producers have already formed an import partnership or partnerships in North America. However, further growth is possible by developing new sales channels and partnerships in each state and province, and not just at the federal level.

Beyond established whisky distilleries, alcohol companies looking to break into the market must receive up-to-date and detailed support regarding the conventional route to market in North America, including information on Canada’s provincial monopolies, the United States' three-tier system and current consumer trends. This step-by-step support can be applied to many categories, notably fledgling whisky producers, craft gin, RTDs and craft beer, among others.

Some of these categories and producers could be prime targets for a newer, distinctive supply chain route involving lighter-touch import structures and the growing field of ecommerce, particularly in the U.S. This opportunity would need to be maximised by aligning this distinctive route to market with specific producers’ output, branding and overall strategy.

Scale of opportunity

Premiumisation continues to be a driving force across several categories of the beverage alcohol sector, despite the downturn in the global economy.

IWSR notes premiumisation as major factor in important categories including scotch whisky gin, and RTDs. It additionally cites the premium optics of sustainability as an additional driver across categories. This holds particularly true at the top end of the scale, as status spirits (those that cost more than $100 USD) continue a 'bullish rebound' post-Covid.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the US (DISCUS) notes that, since 2002, single malt volumes have gone up 201%. This is a trend it anticipates continuing through 2023. DISCUS also notes Scotch being incorporated into highballs and cocktails by consumers and bartenders alike as another trend to emerge.

Top alcohol trends anticipated in 2023, as cited by IWSR, Drizly and numerous other sources, include several of the trends that this market plan will be looking to translate into growth for Scottish companies. These include the re-emergence of the on-trade sector, low/no alcohol, RTDs, brand values such as sustainability and diversity, and ecommerce.

Eligible companies

This opportunity is open to Scottish alcohol producers with a high level of ambition and existing commitment to an investment in branding, social media and online capabilities.

Companies need to be committed to understanding the complexity of exporting to North America and willing to tweak their brands to maximise their opportunities for success.

Register your interest

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Register your interest

Register your interest

Get in touch with our in-market specialists to find out more about this export opportunity.