Sales of tequila’s rarer cousin mezcal are driving the global market in agave-based spirits.
The global market in tequila and mezcal is set to hit a volume 35 million cases by 2021, up from its current level of 30 million cases, according to a new report from IWSR and just-drinks.
Mezcal, a drink made from distilled agave is set to lead growth, though it accounts for a much smaller share of the market.
The study comes as wine and spirits company Pernod Ricard yesterday confirmed its acquisition of a majority stake in Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal.
Del Maguey, which was founded by California artist Ron Cooper in 1995, is one of the largest brands in the category. Figures from IWSR put its sales for 2015 at about $3m, up from $386,000 in 2013. Most of its mezcals sell for $170 or more.
While all tequila is made with the blue agave variety, mezcal can be made from any breed of the fruit. The two drinks are then produced using different methods.
In the UK, mezcal only began to take off in 2015, rising from a small base of 2,500 cases sold to 3,750 cases.
Meanwhile tequila sales increased 15.1 per cent in 2015 and again by 13.4 per cent in 2016, bringing the total volume sold to 270,000 cases.
That means last year British consumers drank 2.43m litres of tequila.
But the US and Mexico still account for the majority of tequila sales. Last year the two markets accounted for 83 per cent of category volumes and the share is only set to grow to an estimated 84.5 per cent by 2021.
The US is expected to drive the increase due to the growing consumer perception of tequila as a quality spirit similar to cognac or whisky. The standard order of a Margarita cocktail is also thought to be a major factor in increasing the popularity of the spirit globally.
While agave-based spirits grew 5.3 per cent in 2016, whereas the overall spirits market was flat.
Other firms have already tapped into the potential of tequila and mezcal. Last week Diageo reported a 43 per cent increase in net tequila sales across its different regions.
The company has also acquired George Clooney’s tequila brand Casamigos to add to its agave-based portfolio in the coming financial year.