Sales of spirits and wine cases last year hit their highest levels for over a decade, according to figures released yesterday. The recently-released 2004 edition of Adams Handbook Advance published by Adams Beverage Group also showed that, despite a slight dip in beer consumption, all three segments of the business posted record retail dollar sales.

In a statement, director of information services for Adams Beverage Group Tiziana Mohorovic said: "Growth in beverage alcohol sales continues to be driven by flavourful and high-end spirit products, continued interest in varietal wines and the ongoing popularity of imported brews."

Spirits sales climbed by 3.8% in 2003, reaching more than 159m 9-litre cases. Wine consumption rose by 4.9% to the highest levels since the 1980s. And despite a slight dip in beer case sales overall, imports, lights and domestic superpremium offerings continued their upward climb. Total beer consumption fell by 0.6% to 2.8 billion 2.25-gallon cases last year.

"Consumers spent $8 billion more on spirits, wine and beer products last year compared with the previous 12 months," said Mohorovic.

"As has been the trend of recent years, total beverage alcohol retail spend grew at a faster pace than case sales in 2003. Retail spend climbed by 6.0% to $145.4 billion, whereas overall industry case sales were essentially unchanged.

"Imported products in all three segments of the beverage alcohol market grew at twice the clip compared with domestics," said Mohorovic. "As with virtually every other consumer goods category, beverage alcohol continues to benefit from the trading up trend."