The San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) has just finished its 22nd annual judging of spirits. Founded in 2000, the SFWSC is the oldest competition in North America. A total of 70 judges drawn from all over the world evaluated approximately 5,000 spirits over a two-week period in April 2022.
According to Amanda Blue, President of the Tasting Alliance, the parent organization of the SFWSC as well as spirit competitions in New York and Singapore and wine competitions in San Francisco and New York, 2022 marked the largest number of entrants that the San Francisco competition has ever received.
Hitting 5,000 entrants for the SFWSC marked a milestone in what has been an amazing year for us. Not only is the SFWSC now the largest spirits competition in the world, but we saw growth across all spirit categories, especially RTDs.
This year we launched our shoppable consumer website in partnership with Reserve Bar one of America’s leading direct to consumer wine and spirits platforms and laid the foundation for jointly sponsored consumer and beverage industry events in 2023.
The number of entries in the RTD category, including the subcategories of wine and spirit-based seltzers and also “Alcopops” have been growing so rapidly that they have now reached the point of requiring their own competition. Next year we will also launch a new competition covering beer.
According to Maddee McDowell, newly appointed Managing Director of the competition, this year saw entrants from more than 40 countries. The American Single Malt Whiskey category, a new addition to the judging, had more than 60 entrants. Wheated bourbons, another new category, had more than 20 entrants. The RTD category grew by more than 500 new entrants.
Gin and agave-based spirits both saw a better than 20% increase in the number of entrants. Mezcal had more than 110 entrants, while Australian whiskies had 60 plus entrants with 46% receiving a gold medal or higher. Australia is quickly demonstrating that it is an up-and-comer in the world whisky category. Straight bourbons had 130 plus entries with more than half winning a gold medal or higher.
Blue also disclosed plans to add additional international competitions to the Tasting Alliance’s judging schedule.
We’ve received significant interest from around the world in hosting and helping to organize additional competitions. The spirits industry is becoming increasingly internationalized. Asian spirits like Baiju are becoming popular in the US, for example, and brands are looking for global footprints for their expressions. Spirit competitions are important not only for a global market, but they have a significant influence on local and regional consumer buying habits.
Another addition to the Tasting Alliance’s activities is the launch of Drincubator, a beverage industry-focused business incubator and venture capital source.
According to Blue:
Brands that win Best of Class or Best of Show see a significant spike in their sales in the period following the competition, sometimes as much as a fivefold to tenfold increase. This is particularly true of smaller craft producers that are often hard to find or only have local or regional distribution.
Drincubator is designed to help smaller craft producers who have done especially well in our spirits competitions to move up to the next level by providing advice, help in securing national distribution, and growth capital.
Below is a link to the 2022 Medalists from the SFWSC. Finalists and winners in the Best of Class, Best of Category and Best Overall Spirits categories will be announced over the next several weeks.