Hold the lime, U.S. migrates to premium tequila

Tue Aug 2, 2011 6:04am EDT
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By Manuel Rueda

MIAMI (Reuters Life!) - Americans are drinking record amounts of tequila even as they migrate toward more expensive and pure varieties that are sipped slowly and savored rather than chugged down in shotglasses with salt and lime.

The changes in tequila consumption are the result of at least five years of heavy investment by major brands in advertising and consumer education, said Francisco Gonzalez, the president of Mexico's National Chamber of the Tequila Industry.

During a recent trip to Miami, in which he promoted Mexico as a tourist destination, Gonzalez spoke about trends in U.S. tequila sales.

"We've worked hard here to market our products, to train bartenders and to show consumers that you can drink tequila straight and sip it slowly," he said. "Today the industry also offers a wide variety of products that helps consumers to appreciate the product."

Overall sales of tequila in the United States have grown by 47 percent since 2003, Gonzalez said, with an estimated 11.6 million cases sold in 2010. During this seven-year period, sales for tequila brands in the higher price brackets grew by even larger rates.

U.S. sales of tequila bottles within the $20 wholesale price range have gone up by 129 percent since 2003, according to figures compiled by DISCUS, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Meanwhile, sales of bottles priced at $22 and up, known in the industry as the super premium category, increased by 317 percent.


A product trademarked by the government of Mexico, tequila is only made in the state of Jalisco and some nearby areas, by producers who distill agave, an indigenous plant that takes up to seven years to mature enough for harvest. Value brands combine distilled agave with other sugars, while higher quality brands use only agave in their tequila.   Continued...

<p>A bottle of aged Tequila Herradura is displayed at a bar in Mexico City August 28, 2006. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar</p>