Quality over quantity is the slogan for Drinks Ireland as it faces into another uncertain year.
Pat Rigney, chairman of the Ibec industry grouping and managing director of the Shed Distillery – home of Gunpowder Gin, said it had been among the hardest-hit sectors in the pandemic, suffering significant impacts on production and sales but also showing "remarkable resilience".
The pandemic impact is evident in figures in its annual review showing a 17 per cent slide in beer sales while wine, benefiting from consumption at home, enjoyed a 12 per cent rise. Spirts (down 5 per cent) and cider (down 11 per cent) shared the experience of beer as much of the sector was shuttered for a large part of the year.
Looking for highlights, Drinks Ireland director Patricia Callan highlighted the move by distilleries into production of hand sanitiser at the pandemic's peak and the "massive operation" to collect and dispose of out-of-date beer and cider in an environmentally sound manner, which sounds more like a bread-and-butter part of the business.
“The industry continuously prepared, and worked hard, for a safe and sustainable reopening, showing itself as a responsible player throughout the pandemic,” she wrote.
Looking forward, Callan said it was vital that hospitality venues remain open, and restrictions are eased as soon as possible.
Alcohol-free and low-alcohol are two areas the industry expects to deliver growth in 2022, along with the ready-to-drink (premixed spirits and cocktails) category.
But, keeping everyone happy, it also highlighted the ongoing popularity of craft cider and beer, as well as Irish gin and whiskey. People will drink what they will: the biggest ask for the sector is that they have the opportunity to do business. The last thing they want is any more Covid waves, from Omicron or anywhere else.