Wine & Spirits Distributors

Industry Profile Report

Dive Deep into the industry with a 25+ page industry report (pdf format) including the following chapters

Industry Overview Current Conditions, Industry Structure, How Firms Operate, Industry Trends, Credit Underwriting & Risks, and Industry Forecast.

Call Preparation Call Prep Questions, Industry Terms, and Weblinks.

Financial Insights Working Capital, Capital Financing, Business Valuation, and Financial Benchmarks.

Industry Profile Excerpts

Industry Overview

The 2,200 wine and spirits distributors in the US represent the second tier of the federal three-tier system of approved alcohol distribution. This system, which has been in place since the lifting of Prohibition, requires that a supplier sell to a distributor, who then sells to a retailer (bar, restaurant, grocery store, liquor store, or other consumer-oriented channel). Spirit sales account for 56% of industry revenue, while wine accounts for about 41%.

Regulatory Changes

Challenges to the current federal three-tier system for alcohol distribution could disrupt the relationships between suppliers, distributors, and retailers.

New Product Proliferation

Liquor suppliers are focusing on product innovation and line extensions to position themselves in the future marketplace.

Industry size & Structure
Industry Forecast
Wine & Spirits Distributors Industry Growth
Source: Vertical IQ and Inforum

Recent Developments

Jun 8, 2024 - Prices Rise Amid Falling Sales
  • Producer prices for beer, wine, and distilled alcoholic beverage merchant wholesalers climbed to a new high in March, up 5.9% compared to a year ago after rising 11.3% in the previous annual comparison, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment by distributors of wine and spirits grew 1.5% in March year over year, while average industry wages at alcohol distributors fell 2.1% over the same period to $25.46 per hour, BLS data show. Producer prices continue to rise despite declining sales for beer, wine, and liquor distributors, which fell 4.4% year over year in March but were up 12.8% vs. February.
  • The global beverage alcohol industry is fighting to keep warning labels that directly link alcohol consumption to cancer off of containers of beer, wine, and liquor in Ireland beginning 2026, The New York Times reports. The Irish law would require two labels that read: “THERE IS A DIRECT LINK BETWEEN ALCOHOL AND FATAL CANCERS” and “DRINKING ALCOHOL CAUSES LIVER DISEASE.” At meetings of the World Trade Organization, trade groups and 11 alcohol-exporting countries, including the US, expressed concerns, questioned the scientific validity of the cancer warning, and argued that Ireland’s labels would infringe on free trade, NYT reports. Currently, in the US, alcohol warning labels are typically found on the back of bottles or cans, where they’re relatively unobtrusive. Globally, only a quarter of countries require any kind of health warning on alcohol. A bill under consideration in Alaska would require businesses that sell alcohol to post warning signs.
  • Declining demand for America’s best-selling whiskey brand reflects shifts in consumer spending and how people consume alcohol, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sales of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 have been falling for months, and its maker, Brown-Forman, is forecasting a sluggish US whiskey business for at least the next year, according to WSJ. Whiskey makers’ US revenue – which soared during the pandemic along with that of other spirits makers – fell 2.2% in 2023 to $12.3 billion, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, while revenue was flat overall for makers of spirits. Inflation and high interest rates have some consumers spending less on alcohol, while others are reducing their alcohol consumption for health reasons – or choosing marijuana instead – per WSJ. Meanwhile, some drinkers of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 – often used to make the popular cocktail Jack and Coke – are trading down for cheaper alternatives.
  • The beverage alcohol industry faces a challenging road ahead in 2024, according to a January press release from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA). Wholesaler inventories for wine, spirits, and beer are at historic highs as US consumers and retailers pull back, SipSource depletion data shows. Economic headwinds confronting wholesalers include inflation, interest rates, and consumer debt, which continue to impact US consumer spending habits. Generational trends are also impacting demand. The industry needs to respond to today’s more diverse customer base and changing tastes, warns SipSource analyst Danny Brager, noting that today’s more diverse consumers are embracing spirits more than wine. In a constrained market, wholesalers must focus on in-demand categories, including ready-to-drink (RTD) premixed cocktails and tequila. Higher-end price tiers are expected to continue to slow, with the best rates of growth in the mid-priced groups.
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