Scotch whisky sales on the slide

Although 007 chose Macallan over Martini in Skyfall, the eurozone economic crisis had a bigger influence on exports

Even James Bond sipping Macallan Scotch instead of his usual Martini in Skyfall couldn't halt a slide in the volume of Scotch whisky exported last year. Sales were hardest hit across the eurozone, as the economic crisis continues to hit luxury industries.

In France, the biggest importer of UK whisky, sales dropped 25% after the introduction of a new 15% whisky tax. The fourth biggest market, Spain, also fell by 20%. It follows years of strong growth for the industry, which accounts for a quarter of the UK's food and drink export market.

The number of bottles shifted worldwide fell 5% to 1.19bn, although the value of the sales grew 1% to £4.27bn as discerning drinkers in the US and Asia turned to more expensive brands.

The biggest winner, according to the International Wine & Spirit Research group, was Johnnie Walker, which took top spot for sales in Asia, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. Its sales grew 7.6% worldwide.

The 1% rise in the value of sales is a long way short of the 23% growth recorded in 2011 and 10% in 2010 – when Scotch whisky gained recognition from China as being produced in Scotland. The formal recognition means rivals cannot label their products Scotch unless they have been made in Scotland.

The value of single malts has increased by 190% to £778m over the past decade, including a 4.5% rise in the last year.

And while western European countries reduced their imports, eastern European countries saw a rise, with many importers shipping whisky to Russia, where there is a growing demand.

Poland saw imports by volume just 18% to 19.2m bottles, Estonia was up 10% to 16.6m bottles and Latvia imported £79.1m-worth, up 48% on 2011.

Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the SWA said: "A combination of successful trade negotations, excellent marketing by producers, growing demand from mature markets, particularly the USA, and the growing middle class in emerging economies helped exports hit a record £4.3bn last year.

"There is confidence in the future of the industry, illustrated by the £2bn capital investment that Scotch whisky producers have committed over the next three to four years. New distilleries have opened and older ones brought back to use to meet rising demand."

It comes as the company behind meat-free food business Quorn was said to be in talks to buy one of the UK's biggest independent whisky distillers.

Exponent Private Equity is understood to be in discussions about a takeover of the Loch Lomond Distillery Company,

The private equity group is also a part owner in Ambassador Theatre Group, tool hire company HSS and handbag maker Radley.

If agreed, the deal would end the independence of one of Scotland's oldest whisky producers which can trace its roots back to 1842.

The company, which primarily produces own-brand whiskies for supermarkets, also owns the Glen's vodka brand.


Simon Neville

The GuardianTramp

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