The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.

Wine and spirits - our challenge to the industry

Last week the WSTA launched our annual Budget effort with an ambitious, but achievable aim of convincing the Chancellor to cut wine and spirits duty by 2% in the Budget Statement on the 8th March. The facts about duty are well known:

·         Wine businesses and consumers pay £4bn in duty and spirits businesses and consumers a further £3.2bn.

·         The duty on a bottle of wine is £2.08, meaning that 55% of the cost of the average bottle in shops and super markets is taken up in tax and VAT.

·         The duty on a 70cl bottle of spirits is £7.26, meaning that 76% of the cost of the average bottle of spirits in shops and supermarkets is taken up by duty and VAT.

·         Duty rates for wine have increased by 56% since 2007 and spirits duty rates have increased by 41%

·         UK businesses and consumers pay the 4th highest duty rate for spirits in the EU accounting for a quarter of all Spirits Duties (27.29%).

·         UK businesses and consumers pay the 3rd highest duty rate for wine in the EU accounting for 68.4% of all duties collected by member states.

While it may seem clear cut to us, achieving a 2% cut is an ambitious ask. The Government is still committed to reducing the deficit and the impact of Brexit means that every industry is looking for support to meet the new challenges we all face.

But it is particularly the case for wine duty. On top of very high excise duty, wine has been singled out for worse treatment for a number of years and has been hit with historic duty rises of 56% since 2007. It now faces the triple threat of the pound's devaluation, rising inflation and further duty rises. It is vital each and every wine business gets involved and raises these issues with their MP.

I am convinced this is achievable and believe that, with an unprecedented and concerted effort by the industry, we can convince the Chancellor to make the right choice to back British businesses and make the cut. This is why we are issuing a challenge to all our members, particularly in the wine industry, to contact their MP and make the case to them.

Politicians will need to see first-hand the breadth and value of the industry to the UK if they are to understand the positive impact a 2% duty cut can have for our businesses, consumers and – perhaps surprisingly - the Treasury. The only way they can do this is if businesses themselves engage directly with their local representatives.

Such a move would be worth 10p for a bottle of wine, 13p for a bottle of sparkling wine and 55p for a litre of spirits compared to an inflationary rise of 3%. Independent economic modelling shows that a 2% cut would boost the industry’s economic contribution by £2.9bn to a record £52.6bn and even lead to increased Treasury revenues of £368m.

The WSTA’s pack has been sent out to our members and the team will be supporting businesses by helping them identify their local MP and giving them all the data they need to make the case. WSTA members can download this pack from the WSTA website here:

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Don’t let anyone tell you that Brexit has either ruined our economy or saved it

Ciaran Myles, Research, Marketing & Insights Manager, WSTA 


As we edge further along the Brexit timeline with limited and, at times contradictory information coming from Government, discontent from both Brexiters and Remainers alike, an ever-watchful press and volatile world markets, one thing remains constant: the world keeps turning. By this I mean that despite all the political white noise, someone has to get on with looking at how the country and the economy are performing. Whilst the old adage ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’ may ring true in parts of Westminster, the likes of the ONS, the OBR and the Bank of England continue to crunch the numbers.


For those looking to find the accurate data amidst this noise I would point you in the direction of a couple of source that can be used as reference, starting with the ONS who have created a dashboard showing key trends and stats on the economy. Outlining quarterly economic output, demand thereof, wages, prices and trade, it’s fairly easy to understand and use with links to more detail further into their website. A major issue for our industry at the moment is the devaluation of the pound, so you might want to keep an eye out for the effect it may have on prices and demand. I also point you in the direction of Carlo’s latest blog piece on the impact of the currency devaluation on the wine trade, which will add context to our industry.


The ONS also issue a monthly economic review here, outlining and updating economic activity estimates for the previous quarter. Basically, it’s a more in-depth version of the dashboard. Given that inflationary increases in alcohol  duty are penned into the Government’s forecast, it might also be wise to keep an eye on inflation here. The language can be a little dense but it’s usually fairly well-hyperlinked to other ONS publications that will explain what everything means. 


Brexit has of course brought into focus the UK as a great trading nation, none more so than through the well-established routes of wine and spirits. This will be a key ask of Government as the WSTA works with it on developing  future trade deals but in the meantime the HMRC tradeinfo website can provide some stats for our industry and you can build and export tables yourself here. This website breaks down all imports and exports by commodity code and country of origin, so it’s good for tracking where wine comes from and where spirits go to. The interface can be clunky, loading can be laborious and HMRC doesn’t display results in volume metrics (only KG mass), which is disappointing. But it does break down by month – usually with a three month lag (this sounds like a big lag but this is pretty good going for Government data) – which enables you to plot recent trendlines. I’m happy to walk you through its use or you can contact me if you have any specific queries you want me to look into.


Finally, as part of the Autumn statement the Office of Budget Responsibility published a suite of economic data. This includes growth forecasts and the impact of decision on taxes and spending. More importantly it projects future revenues from wines and spirits and provides details of current receipts. It also includes forecasts for future consumption of wines and spirits, but even this data is subject to scrutiny 


Don’t let anyone tell you that any data since the referendum is a sign that Brexit has either ruined our economy or saved it, no one can legitimately comment on this yet. What is certain is that whilst the road ahead comes with many concerns it also presents many opportunities – which is exciting - and these data will help us identify the right ones so we can properly and accurately advise our members as well as the Government. You will find that in the coming months and years, we will be using more and more international and trade data in our publications too. 

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The Spirits Summit, Unwrapped


As if we weren’t cold enough in London as it is, WSTA decided to head north once again to the Packaging News Spirits Summit in Edinburgh.

 In its inaugural year, the event was showcased in the beautiful Assembly Rooms on George Street, where chandeliers hung from the ceiling above boxes, bags, glass, cases and corks – a packaging-enthusiasts paradise if you will.

 The room buzzed with chatter as delegates made their way around the stalls to explore some of the industry’s cutting edge creations. The packaging industry could easily be mistaken for dull, but packing businesses from across the world were proving how this was clearly not the case (excuse the pun!).

From innovation managers to materials suppliers – this was the meeting place for the industry’s front runners. We took advantage of the excellent opportunity to talk to businesses who produce the packaging used by many of our spirits company members, especially at the luxury end of their ranges.        



 Proceedings soon got underway as we were invited into the conference hall to hear speakers from global brands tackling topical issues. Diageo’s Kerrin Lumsden walked us through ‘seven steps to great packaging design.’ He argued that great design is at the core of building great brands, and as competition becomes more fierce, major brand owners are changing the way they brief their agencies to ensure they get it. As Design Leader, Kerrin shed light on how Diageo are transforming their own approach to creating engaging, impactful and beautiful spirits packaging.


Continuing on the theme of changing times, the room listened intently to a presentation on ‘uncovering the spirit of a new generation.’ This exposed the radically different paradigms of behaviour that the industry is seeing as the latest generation of drinkers reach maturity. For example, a drop in consumption, the wide spread desire for premiumisation and a thirst for immersive experiences. This presentation was given by Webb deVlam, design agency behind whisky heavyweight, Grants.

Moving away from outer packaging, the Scotch Whisky Association’s Head of Sustainability and Innovation presented their environmental strategy for the sector before the WSTA’s very own Regulatory and Commercial Affairs Director, David Richardson, took the stage. Under the title of “Great packaging – but is it legal?”

David discussed how  an innovative product and great packaging aren’t enough – labelling must be compliant. A central point was that compliant labelling is good for business as it avoids border delays and arguments with trading standards and customers. He helpfully also discussed what changes to bottling, labelling requirements and market tariffs could arise in the future as a result of Brexit.


To round off an excellent and informative day, a cocktail networking session allowed delegates to exchange business cards and pinpoint partners to help them outline how to strike that perfect balance between delivering commerce and an emotional connection on the bottle.

WSTA will be sure to be back at next year’s event. If you would like to be involved then please do not hesitate to get in touch with David.


The video from the day can be viewed here

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Creating safer communities – CAPs

Creating safer communities – CAPs

Creating safer communities – CAPs help bring about real progress through partnership

Director Kate Winstanley talks about the success of CAPs in tackling underage drinking and the associated harms to communities following the publication of the Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) 2016 Impact Report.

On Monday 14th November Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) hosted an awards ceremony to honour the efforts of a number of exceptional individuals whose contributions to their individual CAPs have made a real difference to reducing underage drinking and building safer, more cohesive communities.

 It was an incredibly uplifting evening which shone a light on how working together can make a real difference to people’s lives.



One of the most moving parts of the evening was when Caroline Flint MP presented an award to Henry Maybury for his outstanding contribution to CAPs across the UK. Henry lost his brother to an alcohol-related illness when he was just 29 years old. Caroline spoke from the heart when she handed over his CAP award and said she shared his pain as she told him she lost her 45 year-old mother as a result of alcohol dependence at the age of 28.  Henry now tours schools and prisons in CAP areas and helps to educate the next generation about the hazards of alcohol misuse.


Made up of partnerships between retailers, local authorities, police, schools, neighbourhood groups and health providers, CAPs have played a vital role in reducing alcohol harm across the UK. With the very first CAP scheme being set up in the small market town of St Neots, Cambridgeshire in 2007, more than a decade on the growth has been outstanding. By the end of the year a total of 124 CAPs will have launched UK-wide, with over 20 schemes set up  this year.


The 2016 Impact Report findings show that CAPs are successfully tackling underage drinking and associated anti-social behaviour. On average alcohol-related youth anti-social behaviour reduced by 40% in CAP partnership areas. Additionally, in those areas that have CAPs, there was an 85% reduction in seizures of alcohol from under 18s drinking in public, a 75% fall in attempted purchase by under 18s and significant reductions (41-65%) in attempted proxy purchase by adults on behalf of children.


Westminster played host to the report launch this week which drew MPs, CAP practitioners, funders  and alcohol awareness advocates together. With CAPs spanning Kent, Brecon, Edinburgh and Derry – their reach to all corners of the UK is unrivalled. The CAP model is unique in that it recognises that retailers and licensees can play an effective role in tackling underage and proxy sales rather than being blamed as the source of the problem. Each CAP relies on local partners to develop and implement de
livery at grassroots level. CAP’s success can be attributed to an action plan where every action has an owner, a robust evaluation framework that measures outcomes and impact and a joined up, inclusive partnership model that celebrates innovation and new ways of looking at entrenched and complex social issues.


We were incredibly encouraged by the support from the MP’s, Ministers, Police and Crime Commissioners, industry and Government officials who spoke came along to meet our CAP Community Champions and hear about their achievements, including Sarah Newton MP, Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, Tommy Sheppard MP, Alistair Burt MP, Tom Pursglove MP and Caroline Flint MP . I am delighted to report that on the back of the event we have been asked to organise a number of CAP visits for MP’s and officials who want to learn more about the great work being done and are keen to promote the development of new CAPs in their constituencies.


CAP schemes represent a successful way of working collaboratively to tackle underage drinking and the resulting harm to local communities. CAP is proud to have the support of the WSTA and the wider industry without whose support we could not carry out our valuable work – their generous financial contributions are testament to being a socially responsible industry.



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Women With Bottle - the women behind the wine & spirits industry, Rebekah Kendrick

8th November 2016

Our Parliamentary Affairs Manager is a front line advocate for women in the wine & spirits industry, demonstrated at our recent UK Parliament event.

“If you google the phrase “Master Distiller”, the first 39 images are of men - often slightly more matured, accompanied with a beard, scrutinising a glass of whisky. Likewise, considering what a chemist carefully testing the agricultural conditions for growing grapes might look like, may have you jump to the conclusion of a man.

“But these abstract images couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I wanted to dispel this all-male myth and demonstrate not only the presence of women in the wine and spirits industry, but the contribution they bring. Little did I know what I would find.

“Women have played a vital role in the sector all along, beginning with the first device for distilling plant extract being created by Maria Hebraea, through to there being more women than men among the new Masters of Wine in 2014.

“The WSTA event I organised aimed to recognise these pioneers. Aptly titled, ‘Women With Bottle’, the Parliamentary reception was generously hosted by Tim Loughton MP of the Wine & Spirit APPG and Flick Drummond MP of the Women & Work APPG. It highlighted the breadth of roles taken up by women in the industry today - from market innovators, sommeliers and Managing Directors, to master distillers, chemists, technologists and analysts. To reinforce this point, I invited many of our wine and spirit champions who have taken the industry by storm and continue to inspire more and more women every day.

“I am proud to say that 43% of the industry is made up of women, approximately 96,000 jobs (revealed in our new WSTA report published today). And – speaking of proud – you can find that women make up 53% of the WSTA workforce!

“So, next time you find yourself sipping on one of Britain’s fine gins, the chances are it will have been crafted, distilled, bottled, marketed and sold by a women. Women have had and will continue to have a bright future and a wealth of opportunity in an equally bright industry. So here’s to the #WomenWithBottle.”

You can read the full report here.



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