By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — There’s a wide variation in how much alcohol southeast Iowa residents consume, and what they drink doesn’t quite mirror state trends.
The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division released its annual report this week, showing continuing growth of alcohol sales. Fiscal 2013 was a “record-breaking year in sales and funds generated,” according to the report.
Wapello County consumes the most alcohol per capita locally, at a rate of just under two gallons per year. That’s enough to rank the county No. 31 in the state. Davis County is the lowest in the area, ranking No. 98 with about one-third of a gallon consumed per person over age 21.
Jason Bishop, store director for Hy-Vee Drugstore in Ottumwa, has a unique view of how area residents consume alcohol. Beer far outpaces wine and spirit consumption, both locally and statewide.
But where the state has seen “an explosion of growth and innovation in flavored spirits categories,” Bishop sees sales trailing a bit.
“There’s been an explosion of offerings, yes. But I wouldn’t say sales are there yet. There’s a flavor for just about everything,” he said.
One area that has picked up is sales of Iowa wines. The state’s wine industry has grown considerably in the past decade, and consumers are paying attention. The growth of the industry has included southeast Iowa, with several wineries opening within an hour’s drive.
Bishop said his store has begun selling specific wines based on customer requests, particularly those with local ties. And, generally, closer has meant stronger interest.
“I think for the most part people want to buy local, or as local as they can,” he said. If a winery is “within a county or two,” interest rises.
Statewide alcohol sales are up over the past 10 years, from $133.733 million in Fiscal 2004 to $255.846 million in Fiscal 2013. About half of the days last year saw sales of $1 million or more.
The Internet helps. Bishop said customers are better informed about what is available today than they were in years past. They’re aware of trends like local wines and craft brews that might have struggled to make an impression a decade ago. That helps the stores, too, since customers will ask for products before a store may be aware of it.
The report also had some good news about alcohol sales compliance. The state found a roughly five-to-one rate in favor of compliance with ID checks and prohibiting sales to minors in the past year.
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