Bord Bia has officially launched its new ‘Spirit of Ireland’ drinks campaign in the US today, as part of the Irish government’s trade mission to North America and Mexico.
According to Bord Bia, it is the single-largest investment that it has made to date in the promotion of Irish spirits.
‘Spirit of Ireland’ is an educational programme aimed at US customer-facing staff members selling Irish spirits in off-licences and bars.
‘The €750,000 trade communications campaign comprises virtual-reality tours of 20 of Ireland’s distilleries, featuring interviews with master distillers and barrel coopers, so staff can learn first-hand from brand owners in Ireland what makes their product unique and distinctive,’ Bord Bia added.
‘Unique Sensory Experience’
The campaign offers a unique sensory experience, using scratch-and-sniff cards to smell and experience barley fields and barrel houses – all aimed at creating an in-depth understanding of Irish spirits.
The campaign will be rolled out in the US with 17 liquor control boards, the government agencies that regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages at a wholesale level in specific states.
Officially launching the ‘Spirit of Ireland’ drinks trade communication campaign with the Ohio Liquor Control Commission, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said, “Irish spirits are now exported to over 130 countries around the world and experiencing a renaissance.
“From Irish whiskey to Irish gin and traditional Irish poitín to Irish cream liqueur, they form an evolving, innovative sector that is on a fast growth trajectory in the US.
“Bord Bia’s new drinks trade communication campaign in the US demonstrates Ireland’s commitment to the US market, [to] build the awareness of this growing spirits category and positively influence commercial success.”
Exports of Irish alcohol to the US have been strong in recent years. In 2021, Irish beverage exports to the US were valued at €657 million, up by 17% from €561 million in 2020, Bord Bia noted.
That recovery was most robust in Irish whiskey and cream liqueur exports.
Speaking at the launch of the Bord Bia event, Henry Horkan, Bord Bia’s North America director, said, “US consumers appreciate the quality and taste of Irish spirits, and Bord Bia is undertaking this activity to ensure the position of the spirits category is protected and strengthened.
“The primary aim of ‘Spirit of Ireland’ is to inform and educate the alcohol trade industry about the history and heritage of Irish spirits.
“Attendees learn the history, the renaissance and the future of Irish spirits, allowing them to share this story widely – both with their colleagues and consumers – to inform, educate, and – overall – deliver increased commercial value on behalf of the Irish drink sector.”
Last year, Irish whiskey exports to the US went up by 19%, compared to 2020, Horkan said, pointing to the growing trend of premiumisation in the sector.
He highlighted that Irish spirits have made a “remarkable recovery” since the pandemic and “continue to grow” year by year in the US.
“Over half of all Irish drinks exports are destined for the US, so there has never been a more opportune time to launch this trade programme, and it is the first time the Irish distilling sector has collectively come together to showcase its industry to a worldwide trade audience of buyers, customer-facing store personnel, and influential stakeholders,” Horkan said.
“The single-most important current trend in the global spirits industry today is premiumisation, and the ‘Spirit of Ireland’ campaign will provide a unique opportunity for industry professionals in US retail and foodservice outlets to hear from some of Ireland’s most renowned industry innovators across all categories, including Irish whiskey, which is the fastest-growing spirits category in the world.”
With 20 fully operational distilleries included as part of Bord Bia’s virtual distiller tour, this is considered Phase One of a commitment to have all of Ireland’s Origin Green-verified distilleries included in the programme.
A further ten distilleries will be included in Bord Bia’s virtual tour during the course of 2022, with others added as they commence production, and with product available for export.
Through virtual-reality headsets, participants will have the opportunity to virtually tour 20 Irish distilleries, including:
Skellig Six 18
Sliabh Liag Distillers
Killarney Brewing Company
Lough Gill Distillery
Bord Bia noted that in February of this year it successfully delivered one pilot programme for the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, the government agency of New Hampshire that regulates the sale of alcoholic beverages.
This included 75 participants, comprising managers of the state-controlled liquor stores.
While being officially launched in Ohio as part of the trade mission, ‘Spirit of Ireland’ will be further rolled out within key control state markets for Irish alcohol in the US, and also in Canada, over the course of 2022 and into 2023, building longevity and deepening programme awareness.