2012-03-17 / News

Ohio posts record alcohol sales in 2011

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE – Pizza Cottage employee Phil Newman doesn’t necessarily agree Ohio’s record liquor sales in 2011 is an indicator that the state’s restaurant business is flourishing – because he doubts it was ever really suffering, even during the recession. “Even at the worst of the economy I had to stand in line at restaurants,” he said. “One thing people won’t stop doing is eating.”

Newman’s boss, Pizza Cottage Executive Manager Kevin Gorham, agrees Ohio’s restaurant market is mostly strong. “It is; I would say it’s good for moderately priced places,” he said, adding that he believes white tablecloth restaurants suffered during the recession. Gorham said the Pizza Cottage’s alcohol sales match the state’s findings. “I would say yes, our (alcohol sales) are definitely up,” he said. “It certainly hasn’t gone down any.”

According to an Ohio Department of Commerce press release, the Division of Liquor Control announced that dollar sales of spirituous liquor reached a record level in 2011, totaling $793.7 million, an increase of 5.3 percent, exceeding 2010’s total by $40 million. “Better inventory management and improved customer service helps us meet the needs of consumers,” said David Goodman, Director of the Ohio Department of Commerce.

After wholesale sales (liquor purchased by retail permit holders such as restaurants, bars and clubs) fell three of the past four years, they turned around in 2011 with a 4.7 percent increase. Total wholesale sales reached $244 million, exceeding last year by $10.9 million. “This is a positive indicator for Ohio’s economy, showing that Ohioans are again patronizing restaurants and entertainment businesses,” Goodman said.

The Ohio Restaurant Association is also noticing the growth. “ Whether linked to expanded happy hour offerings or a larger selection of flavored spirits, consumers appear to be enjoying more specialty drinks and pairing their meals with more sophisticated products,” said Jarrod Clabaugh, Director of Communications for the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Dollar sales grew more than consumption in 2011. The Division sold a total of 11.4 million gallons of spirituous liquor through its 457 Contract Liquor Agencies, an increase of 3.9 percent over the previous year. “As consumer tastes become increasingly more sophisticated, they tend to buy more of the premium products,” said Goodman. The following were the top 10 selling brands of spirituous liquor in Ohio for 2011 (by gallons sold):

1. Kamchatka Vodka - 401,148 gallons

2. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey - 349,589 gallons

3. Bacardi Superior Light Rum - 291,559 gallons

4. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum - 284,606 gallons

5. Absolut Vodka - 274,549 gallons

6. Smirnoff Vodka - 271,679 gallons

7. Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey - 271,497 gallons

8. Jagermeister - 257,774 gallons

9. Korski Vodka - 231,916 gallons

10. Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey - 192,244 gallons

Matesich Distributing chief executive Jim Matesich said local beer sales in the Buckeye Lake area were actually down a percent or two last year for several reasons. He said the high cost of gasoline reduced expendable income, which doesn’t help beer sales, and he said there’s a trend for drinkers to switch from beer to wine and liquor. The weather was a factor locally. He said the extremely wet spring caused people to avoid golfing and boating, and consequently buy less beer. “You never get that business back,” said Matesich. “The weather really impacts this industry.”

The bright spot, said Matesich, was the introduction of Yeungling beer to Ohio last fall. He said the introduction boosted sales during last year’s final quarter and should be a major benefit to this year’s sales. He added that the introduction of products like Bud Light Platinum this February should help bring back some of the drinkers who switched to wine and spirits.

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