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As Spirits Sales Grow, a Thirst for New Products
CNBC.com | January 30, 2012 | 03:36 PM EST

It’s time for companies that make vodka and other spirits to switch from defense to offense.

The recession put businesses on guard. It was all about defending market share, cutting costs and making it through the downturn. But according to the spirits industry’s trade group, there are some strong arguments to be made that it’s time to crank up the innovation machine and take a few more chances.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, also known as Discus, reported Monday the volume of spirits sold in the U.S. jumped 2.7 percent in 2011 from the prior year, while sales grew 4 percent to $19.92 billion.

Some of that growth came from consumers switching from beer to spirits, and that left market share for spirits at 33.6 percent of the market. That compares with a 49.2 percent share for beer and a 17.1 percent share for wine.

But it’s not just the fact the industry is growing again that suggests the market will welcome new products. There are other signals.

For one, revenue coming from bars and restaurants has returned to pre-recession levels. That’s good news for new products. Not only do spirits companies have opportunities to promote and market new beverages at these establishments, but consumers are more likely to try something new when they are out because they are only committing to purchase one drink, not an entire bottle.

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