Scotch sales in Venezuela grew 55%
Valcarcel said that the 3 categories of scotch -- standard, luxury and super luxury -- showed an important expansion in a market.
Venezuela's Scotch whisky market, one of the world's largest, grew by 55 per cent during last year and topped the previous sales record set in 2002, a top industry official said.
Juan Valcarcel, Venezuelan brand manager for global drinks maker Diageo, said that the three categories of scotch -- standard, luxury and super luxury -- showed an important expansion in a market that consumes more than 2.6 million boxes of imported and domestic whiskey per year.
"If we compare 2005 to 2004, the Scotch whisky market has grown by around 55 percent," Valcarcel said. "At the close of 2005 we were above 2002 consumption, which was a record year."
In 2002, the annual consumption of whisky was 1.8 million boxes of scotch, but this declined as the result of a bitter two-and-a-half year political conflict over the rule of President Hugo Chavez.
According to figures from UK-based Diageo, Venezuela is currently the largest consumer of whisky in Latin America and one of the eight largest in the world.
Valcarcel said the increase is the result of a rise in per capita whisky consumption, an increase in duty free whisky sales and a strong advertising campaign by distributors.
He said the business had also benefited from Venezuela's economic growth -- fueled by high global oil prices -- which has boosted the amount of money in circulation in the country of nearly 27 million people.
"What we are seeing is high consumption of everything, any multinational company can say that. I believe one or two didn't grow, but the rest of them are growing. This means that there is more money at every socio-economic level," he said.
Venezuela's Central Bank estimated the economy of the world's fifth-largest oil exporter grew by 9.4 percent in 2005 and officials expect an expansion of 5 percent this year.
SCOTCH WHISKY: A NATIONAL DRINK
Diageo estimated that in 2006 the market will maintain a similar trend, spurred by Venezuelan consumers' marked fondness for the drink.
"The national drink is not rum, it's whisky -- that's clear," said Valcarcel, whose company sells brands like Johnnie Walker, Buchanan's and Old Parr.
High sales of scotch would seem to contradict frequent criticism of consumerism by Chavez, who has promised to move Venezuela toward a "21st Century Socialism" and who has characterized whisky as the preferred drink of the "corrupt" governments that preceded him.
Valcarcel defended the country's love of the beverage as a social custom in Venezuela.
"We know the idiosyncrasy of our country tends toward the consumption of luxury products, because people like to be seen consuming high-quality products," he said. "That doesn't change and has not changed even in moments of crisis."
One bottle of "Super Luxury" 18-year whisky can cost more than $60 -- at the official exchange rate of 2,150 bolivars to the U.S. dollar -- about a third of the nation's minimum wage of $188 per month.
Diageo's primary competitor is the French company Pernod Ricard, which represents the Chivas Regal brand.
Valcarcel indicated that in general the consumption of alcoholic beverages -- especially beer -- continued to show signs of expansion in Venezuela.