(The Center Square) – The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division reported Tuesday that liquor sales in fiscal year 2021 reached a record $415.8 million. The 13.2 percent increase over fiscal year 2020 represents a significant jump.
The sales of alcohol products in fiscal year 2020 were approximately $367 million.
Income from liquor profits, beer barrel and wine gallonage taxes as well as revenue from licensing and regulatory efforts provided $168 million for Iowa’s General Fund, $29 million of which will go to substance abuse and prevention education programs through the Iowa Department of Public Health.
The outcomes within this year’s annual report reflect good government planning and execution,” ABD Administrator Stephen Larson said in the news release.
Larson said the increases are “a direct result” of ABD’s 2019 strategic plan. The plan’s goals were maximizing revenue to the General Fund and reducing distribution operating costs, improving regulatory compliance and maintaining a competitive, transparent environment for Iowa businesses.
Iowa Department of Public Health spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand told The Center Square in an emailed statement Wednesday that the funding supports statewide assessment prevention and treatment initiatives. Those include training, program evaluations and prevention of substance-related disorders and problem gambling. It also helps fund the 24-hour Your Life Iowa helpline (call 855.581.8111, text 855.895.8398) and website of resources and referrals for regarding alcohol, drugs, gambling, mental health, or suicidal thoughts.
“The funds mean that we can continue to provide the programming,” Ekstrand said.
Fiscal year 2022 liquor sales have increased 5.7% through the end of November, the release said.
Liquor sales were highest in Polk County, followed by Linn County and Scott County, the report said. The division sold more than 6.5 million gallons of liquor in fiscal year 2021, and the number of bottles shipped rose by 2.6 million from 28.2 million to 30.8 million. Whiskey, vodka and rum sales were highest in terms of both dollars and gallons sold, adjusted from total liquor revenue. Cordials dropped from third to fourth most popular since the previous fiscal year.
Black Velvet held the top spot as the most popular brand in fiscal year 2021, a spot it has kept since at least fiscal year 2012, when the reporting began. Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum were second and third highest, respectively. Blue Ox Vodka was the most popular Iowa brand for the third year in a row.
“Although COVID-19 has created additional challenges in the marketplace, this report reflects ABD’s continued success in achieving the mission of serving Iowans through responsible and efficient licensing, regulation, and distribution of alcohol,” ABD Executive Officer II Jake Holmes said in the release.
Iowa Wholesale Beer Distributors Association Executive Director David Adelman told The Center Square in a phone interview Tuesday that, at a first glance, he didn’t find the statistics surprising. He said increases could be due to more beer, wine and spirits choices for consumers. Distributors have told him there were only 12 different beer choices about 20 years ago, and they now cover more than 500 brands and product labels.
Adelman said he expects options will increase since entrepreneurs continue to want to experiment in what they can supply consumers. At the same time, distributors want to ensure consumers are drinking responsibly, he said.
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s health tracking portal reported there were 836 deaths in 2020 that involved alcohol. Per 100,000 people, 17 “females” and 36.5 “males” died. Per capita, the rural and urban death rates were about equal (26.5 vs 26.9 respectively).
According to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s 2021 County Health Rankings, 26% of Iowans reported binge or heavy drinking in 2018. From 2015 to 2019, 27% of driving deaths involved the use of alcohol. Iowa Law Enforcement announced it will increase checking for impaired drivers between this Friday Dec. 17, through New Year’s Day.