Will Direct-to-Consumer Shipping Expand for Distilled Spirits?

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As R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle has previously discussed, it’s very difficult for the alcohol industry—especially distilled spirits and beer—to participate in the direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping boom. Most states restrict the ability of brewers and distillers to ship their products directly to customers, although Kentucky recently passed a DtC law that could spread to other states. An article for RaboResearch lays out the current state of play:

In a world where consumers can get anything they want, however they want, the spirits industry is at a real disadvantage. Direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipments and e-commerce have driven growth in the wine category, but spirits face restrictive rules around shipping and retail that limit distillers’ ability to operate online. As we approach the holiday season – the most important time of year for wine and spirits sales – we want to highlight the structural challenges facing spirits in a world increasingly defined by e-commerce.

In 2018, wine shipped DtC will represent 7 percent of the total US wine market – more than USD 3 bn. About 95 percent of US consumers can go online to buy and ship wine DtC across state lines. The laws for shipping spirits DtC are, however, much more restrictive: Only five states allow DtC spirits shipments, with 5 percent of the US population having access to the channel. In fact, shipping laws are so complex and the market so small that common carriers won’t even ship spirits in states that do permit distilleries to ship DtC.

If the spirits industry had the same access to consumers as wine, they could build a market worth billions of dollars. Recognizing the opportunity, distillers are pushing state legislatures to change their shipping laws, and believe it or not, they are making progress. Kentucky, perhaps aspiring to its state slogan 'unbridled spirit', passed a law to legalize DtC spirit shipping in 2018. Other states will likely follow. As Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distiller’s Association, told Insider Louisville “... once other states realize Kentucky has broken the ice... we’re going to see a lot of movement with other states coming on board.”…

Read the rest here.