US spirits sales continued a slowing trend in March after vodka, rum and US whiskey demand slumped in the last 12 months, data shows.

In volume terms, spirits sales declined 4.3% year-on-year in March to 4.84 million nine-litre cases. Sales value also fell 2.2% to $1.09bn, according to figures from the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA).

Nearly every spirit category tracked by NABCA – which covers 18 control states, including liquor store and on-premise sales – declined in value and volume in March compared to last year, continuing an ongoing slowdown.

Rum fell 11.5% in volume terms and 9.2% in value. Vodka and US-whiskey volumes dropped 5.6% and 4.3% respectively, while vodka’s value dropped 4.9% year-on-year and US whiskey remained fairly flat, dropping 0.1%.

Cocktails, including RTDs, and Tequila bucked the trend as they both grew in volume and value – the former jumped by 14.3% in volume to 232,000 nine-litre cases and 14% to $20.28m in value.

Nevertheless, the latest report does not bode well for the US distilled spirits market, as TD Cowen analyst Robert Moskow said in a report on the data.

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“The data reinforces our view that the industry will face slower growth in 2024 due to reduced incidence post-pandemic and pantry de-loading,” he said.

Moskow estimated sales actually grew around 0.3% in March after accounting for eight fewer selling days. He added that the NABCA data accounts for between 20% to 25% of total US market sales.

The analyst wrote that spirits major Brown-Forman’s dollar sales fell 1.8% in the full month as the group’s share price remained relatively flat.

Following the company’s third-quarter results in March, Brown-Forman CEO Lawson Whiting said the company “does believe next [fiscal] year will start to return to those normal levels as this inventory conversation… we think will largely be over”.

When asked how the group expects “consumer pantry destocking” to affect the US spirits category, Whitman said: “This is not like food or some other categories that move much faster. Spirits, I call it kind of in the middle.”

Scotch and gin both also slowed in March, according to NABCA. Scotch’s nine-litre case volumes sunk 6.4% while dropping 5% in value terms to $34.63m. Gin fell 7.8% in volume terms and 5.2% in value terms.

NABCA’s brandy and Cognac category also highlighted the struggles of the two spirits, plummeting 15.9% in value terms to $66.16m and 11.3% in volume terms.

Richard Woodard recently wrote regarding the US spirits market for Just Drinks: “To sum up, it’s a somewhat messy, confusing and uncertain picture, which isn’t great for CEOs, CFOs, shareholders and the markets.

“If we accept that today’s declines in spirits consumption in the US – the first in over 30 years, by the way – are cyclical rather than structural, it would sure as hell be useful to have some idea of when that cycle will be complete.”