The infographics below are derived from data contained in
BMC's DrinkTell™ Database with Market Forecasts


Data undisputedly tells us what "the trends" are. At the same time the numbers can flash caution. A recent dive into our DrinkTell™ database reminds us to read carefully and be selective in evaluating opportunities.

We're thinking of the lure of piling on just as a trend has peaked. It's strong. Last fall an eye-catching headline in Forbes heralded the formation of a "first of its kind" ETF. (An ETF is an Exchange Traded Fund, a marketable security that tracks an index; unlike mutual funds ETFs trade through the day like common stock.) The ETF in question covers publicly traded companies that produce whiskey or other spirits.

Minimum market capitalization of the participants (who are global) is $100 million and complications such as the fact that some major distillers also produce wine and/or beer are resolved by weighting - a lower weight for those with a lesser concentration on their spirits portfolios. The aim, though, is the allure of betting on obvious trends - premium spirits, American whiskies, certain high growth exports (from their home markets) such as Irish Whiskey and Single Malt Scotch, etc.

Enthusiasm for changes to creaky old laws like those preventing Sunday sales or direct sales of craft spirits helps drive a rosy picture. Which is not to say that the picture isn't rosy - only that it may be complicated. Which takes us back to DrinkTell™.

Flavored Whiskey Nine Liter Cases (000s)
Our DrinkTell™ example is not whiskey broadly but flavored whiskey specialties. Little more than a year ago this segment was so hot it was burning as volume surged upward. Some big producers were virtually showering the market with a broad array of product offerings. (Marketers are just as susceptible to chasing the latest big thing as those who do their betting on equities.) But even as new expressions and product innovations were rolling out, the strategic outlook was changing. Year over year category growth was moderating dramatically as the chart illustrates.
Flavored Whiskey Change in Volume (%)
In DrinkTell™ itself you'll find a more nuanced picture of the good, the bad, and the ugly that we don't have room for here. Not everyone saw growth stall equally and for some a lower level of growth still represented a good result.

As usual the devil is in the details. Looking at the broader specialty market to include all cordials and liqueurs as well as whiskey specialties, we see some interesting notes running through the course of the past year. One is a swan dive in change in sales of the super-premium price tier. Another is a crash in honey flavors. It's interesting to note that excesses in flavored vodkas and rums went on for much longer before becoming disruptive. The point is that every day is a new day and the numbers such as these can provide essential ground level intelligence.

A disclaimer is also due- DrinkTell™ numbers are not grades. They shouldn't imply or infer an evaluation, although for some they will provide a benchmark. If you look at profits and returns already achieved, most of the marketers involved in our example were more than successful enough.

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