Iowans continue to drink more

Alcohol consumption up 5.7 percent in fiscal 2017


DES MOINES — State policymakers are toasting another year of higher alcohol sales in Iowa.

The 2017 annual report by the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division won’t be released until the agency’s oversight commission approves it, but division administrator Stephen Larson gave Gov. Kim Reynolds a taste of the numbers Monday during a budget presentation.

“In fiscal year 2017, the division once again experienced healthy revenue growth,” said Larson, noting spirit sales in Iowa hit $305.6 million, which was a 5.7 percent jump — or $11.6 million — over the previous year.

About $133.5 million generated by state excise taxes on wine and beer, along with license fees and fines, went to public accounts, according to the division, with $107 million of that deposited in the general fund.

Larson said wine sales in Iowa were flat but the marketplace for beer continued to change with the craft beer industry “growing at an incredible rate.” He said retailers are “increasingly seeing additional business opportunities to manufacture, sell and serve alcoholic beverages in different venues” across the state.

“All of this is intertwined with advances in technology, changes in attitudes for increased convenience, the blending of existing business models, customer demand for alcoholic beverages diversity by on-premises and off-premises licenses, and expectations by industry, taxpayers and local authorities for fair, practical and efficient licensing regulations that protect the health, safety and welfare of Iowans,” he said.

Last fiscal year’s trend has carried over into the first four months of the current fiscal year since July 1, Larson said, with gross liquor sales of $103.5 million topping the same period a year ago by 10.2 percent and gross profits up 15 percent at $43.2 million through October.

The division administrator noted that the top 20 retailers in Iowa generate about 75 percent of the sales and that Black Velvet Canadian whiskey remains the No. 1 selling brand in Iowa “by a wide margin,” with 163,812 cases sold in fiscal 2017.

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