Annuity sales grew 7.7% in 2011 to $231.1 billion driven by robust sales of variable annuities, the Insured Retirement Institute announced Monday. Variable annuity sales were the strongest since 2007, hitting $155.5 billion, a 12% increase from 2010. 

“These sales results demonstrate that the marketplace for insured retirement products is truly robust with a significant number of investors looking to attain lifetime income as part of their retirement strategy,” IRI President and CEO Cathy Weatherford said in a statement. 

Sales of fixed annuities, however, were down slightly for the year, falling 1.1% to $75.6 billion.

Overall, annuities had a relatively weak fourth quarter, totaling $54.5 billion, down 6.6% from the $58.1 billion logged in the third quarter, according to IRI.  Fourth-quarter variable annuity sales totaled $37.2 billion, down 5% from $39.1 billion in the previous quarter. And fourth-quarter fixed annuity sales dipped 8.8% to $17.3 billion from $19 billion in the third quarter.

The statistics are based on data reported by Morningstar and Beacon Research.