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The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.

WSTA and UKTI host ‘British Gin’ reception in Brussels

Gin has long been seen as an iconic British product, but it's current renaissance is seeing it become the premium ‘drink of choice’ for many discerning consumers, with specialist gin bars and new distilleries springing up across London and nationwide. Recent data in the WSTA’s market report showed Gin growing at 5% in the off trade and 10% in the on trade.

And this success isn't restricted to UK shores, with global output forecast to grow by 13 million litres a year. Nowhere is this demonstrated better than in Europe. We have recently seen rapid growth in gin sales in the Spanish, German, French and Italian markets. And Belgium, whose capital played host to the first WSTA-UKTI Reception, has entered the top 20 export markets for British gin with a staggering 60% increase in the number of cases sold – the biggest increase in any market worldwide.

This rise in demand from the continent is being largely met by British gin producers, making it one of the UK’s biggest exports. Almost 140 million bottles of gin were exported from the UK to foreign markets in 2013 – enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools!

I was delighted, alongside colleagues from UK Trade & Investment and a former colleague of mine, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose, to host an event 'first' in the UK's historic Residence in Brussels earlier this month to celebrate the growing success of British gin producers.

 

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The reception featured four UK gin suppliers and was a convivial advertisement for a genuine British success story. Attended by MEPs, policy makers, Belgian industry representatives and media, guests enjoyed the taste of a wide range of products including some classic gin cocktails: A Summer Mule, a Pink Lady and a Rosie Lee. The event also provided an ideal platform to set out what the WSTA has been doing to support the industry and what we want to do next.  

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I am delighted that our successful event was able to demonstrate what an exciting time it is for those in the gin industry here in the UK to a genuinely European audience; and as British Gin becomes ever more popular on the continent, the WSTA will be supporting our members to navigate their way into even more European markets. Watch this space…

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WSTA launches online guide to drinks’ calories

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The issue of calorie content is one that is on the news often in recent months and is one that is being considered and discussed both nationally and within the EU. The WSTA will be feeding into this debate and looking to ensure that, should EU- wide rules be proposed, an agreement is reached that is right for UK consumers. However, as with most EU negotiations, this may not materialise for some time.

 

While these discussions are on-going the industry itself has been looking at how it can support the efforts to promote greater consumer awareness, and this has included some producers and retailers taking action voluntarily with their own labelling. These are positive steps, but as an industry we also recognise that consumers consume their information in many different ways, just like their drinks.

 

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has joined in too. While we don’t produce anything to label, we have published an online guide to average calorie content of drinks in order to help drinkers understand more about their calorie in-take. This is a quick reference guide that helps users to understand what they are likely to be consuming and the figures are averages values taken from generally accepted data and are given in standard measures as found in UK pubs.

 

It is not always possible to give precise values for individual products as there will be variation within a category (particularly wine) for example if lower in alcoholic strength or higher in sugar. But the page is aimed at giving a broad picture of the calories found in a range of standard products.

 

The figures are based on McCance and Widdowson’s “The Composition of Foods Integrated dataset”, data from responsible drinking.eu and The Brewers of Europe and builds on the work undertaken by others on this issue including Drinkaware ( see https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/appearance/calories-in-alcohol ) as the industry looks to do what it can to provide more information to consumers in a variety of different ways.

 

 

The WSTA Calorie Guide is available on our website here: http://wsta.co.uk/resources/calorie-counter

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Guest Post: Behind the Scenes at The Benevolent Ball

The WSTA are supporters of the industry charity, the Benevolent, who support current and former members of the industry in times of need. The following post follows their gala event, The Benevolent Ball, earlier this month.

For one night only

After weeks of preparation, time and effort, it is back to reality for Team Benevolent. Following the execution of our charity’s biggest event of the year we are suffering the inevitable post ‘Benevolent Ball blues’ and slightly sad that it’s all over. The sumptuous surroundings of The Dorchester become Benevolent HQ for the day and we all arrive early in the morning to spend the day setting up and prepping for the evening ahead.  The Benevolent Ball is the largest and most profitable event in our calendar with 300 attendees each year and is a significant undertaking for our team of 5 from Head Office. There is a huge amount of preparation that needs to happen months in advance; from creating the invites, designing the brochures, sourcing helpers, booking suppliers, securing auction prizes, preparing table decorations, fundraising logistics, sourcing music and entertainment, the list goes on and on. 

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Setting the scene

Before David Cox, The Benevolent’ s Chief Executive, could take the stage on Thursday evening there were countless boxes to unpack, brochures to be laid, and dozens of other tasks to be crossed off the list.  The venue was a true work in progress early Thursday morning as the fun and chaos began, and people arrived on the scene. Helpers and staff could be seen outside the Ballroom assembling over 220 prizes for the Tombola, sorting through pallets of wines and merchandise and making up various luxury hampers. With more than 30 tables seated for 10 guests the team had their work cut out.  It took all day for us to dress tables, carry out the sound check and then lay out the 300 place cards. Even small details like placing party poppers and rocket balloons by each setting cannot be forgotten (we have mixed feelings about this task as we live in fear that an overly enthusiastic guest will set off a rocket balloon during David’s very well thought out and carefully written speech!).  

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Serving up style

The devil is in the detail when it comes to making a black tie event really stand out. The elegant surroundings, white crisp linens, sparkling silverware and the Salons des Champagnes help by creating a lovely ambiance. And with four Grande Marque Champagnes to choose from during the Reception we hope that all our guests feel just a little bit spoiled for choice! Another key element of ensuring the evening is a success is choosing the right four course meal to be prepared by amazing chefs at The Dorchester. This year 300 cheese soufflés were delivered all in one go, that is service at its best!  Nothing worse than a deflated soufflé, which at this point of the evening my heart can feel like!  After dinner we had the Live Auction, with the top prize of tickets to see U2 play at The O2 in a corporate hospitality box and arrival and collection in a chauffeur driven Bentley. The inimitable Andrew Cox, (David’s brother) worked really hard, holding the attention of 300 very noisy guests, and speedily got top bids like no other auctioneer.

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One of my favourite parts of the night, was the photo booth including a make up artist with the theme of ‘zombies and pirates’, this included several key industry figures having their face painted too!  All of a sudden The Ball had a slight Glasto feel to it, with many key figures turning a bit flower power hippy on me – and face paints galore!

The Benevolent Ball Cocktail Bar had some fantastic cocktails, whilst guests networked and played on the casino.  Ewan Murray’s band ‘Chapter Eight’ performed various hits, and well known characters started to cut some serious shapes on the dance floor! It was at this point during the evening that I could finally take a breath and enjoy our guests’ wonderful reactions to the various after dinner activities. I have to say that seeing so many of our wonderful trade having a great evening makes all the hard work worth it!

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Thank you

I want to send out a very big thank you to all those who supported the event.  With your help we raised over £40,000 for drinks industry colleagues facing serious medical or financial hardship. We really could not have done it without you. I also want to send out a special thanks to everyone involved behind the scenes, David and the helpers, not forgetting the Team at Benevolent HQ; you all do an absolutely superb job – go Team Benevolent, and roll on The Benevolent Ball 2016!  

 

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — andrew cox
It was a blast and you all worked your socks off! Tip top Events team! Take a bow!
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 13:11
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’Drop the Duty!’: whatever the result, thank you for getting involved!

With just a few days left before Budget day, it is worth reflecting on what we have achieved – regardless of the end result. Without a doubt, we have made our voice heard with approaching 90% of MPs in total and almost 95% of Conservative MPs receiving emails - many of them more than six, and some more than 50! To an even greater extent than last year, we have presented a united industry front, while at the same time showcasing the rich diversity of our wonderful industry. Craft distillers and English wine have, rightly, figured more prominently in communications with MPs and in press coverage, in both the trade and national titles.

 

Most importantly, we have made effective use of an independent economic evidence base produced by EY to the extent that no one, either at the Treasury or in Parliament, has dismissed the figures or seriously challenged our arguments – on the potential enhanced contribution to the public finances, to GDP, to job creation or to pubs and the wider hospitality sector. This is both a tribute to the credibility of a compelling case and a reflection of the higher standing of the industry in the eyes of government and Parliament. In short, our contribution is better understood and increasingly appreciated by those in the corridors of power. This is perhaps the biggest gain from two broad based, economically evidence-based and relentlessly positive tax campaigns in two years.

 

None of this tangible change in perception and reputation would have occurred without WSTA members and Harper’s readers being prepared to get stuck in and to throw your own and your company’s weight behind our ‘Drop the Duty!’ campaign. Every email to every MP made an impact, but perhaps the most important effect has been to make our elected representatives realise that our industry is both global and local, is about both big business and normal people - their constituents, their voters. As one MP’s researcher told us, ‘”We see ’Drop the Duty!’ as a constituency-driven campaign. That is why my MP is interested!”

 

This represents real progress and – alongside our achievements towards goals agreed with the Government, notably under the Responsibility Deal and through the growth and success of Community Alcohol Partnerships – it fills me with hope and confidence that the industry is in a far better place at the end of this Parliament than it was at its halfway stage. So thank you for all that you have done and the support you have given: holding off – for now! - the threat of minimum  unit pricing, securing the abolition of the Alcohol Duty Escalator, establishing the WSTA as the key interlocutor with the Government on alcohol issues and changing government’s perception of our industry – from problem provider to responsible economic force. We are in a good place to respond to whatever the next Parliament and next Government brings – from emergency Budgets to ‘son of Responsibility Deal’.

 

 

And what of next week’s Budget result? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am confident our voice has been heard loudly and understood well. We must hope that the Chancellor has listened and that his Budget enables our rightly proud industry ‘to play its part in the UK’s recovery’ - the words he used when I presented him with the WSTA’s award of thanks on the steps of Number 11 earlier this year. Whatever Budget day brings, please accept a heartfelt thank you from all at the WSTA for your valiant efforts. Here’s to enjoying a small drop and a big cheer…!

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WSTA’s independent streak

I was delighted to be invited to be a panellist at the Harper’s March for Independents event held yesterday.

It was fascinating to hear about the range of business models and different types of diversification, including food offerings, wine clubs, buying groups and on-line retailing.  I think fellow speaker Angela Mount (MW) summed it up when she said it wasn’t enough just to be passionate about wine.

Our panel was looking at new ways for independents to change their business and increase profit.  Hal Wilson (Cambridge Wine Merchants) looked in detail at some of the ways to use in-bond purchases, duty deferment accounts and guarantee exemption schemes to delay the time when excise duty has to be paid, aiding cash flow and profit margin.

I used the opportunity to remind the participants about the obligation of excise traders to be able to demonstrate “due diligence” to HMRC in their business dealings.  Even if a retailer mangers to escape the requirement to demonstrate due diligence themselves, they can expect their wholesalers and suppliers to be required to do so and to undertake regular checks to ensure that their business relationship is on a sound footing.  Moreover, it makes good commercial sense to have robust due diligence processes.

I also spoke about the proposed Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme.  We are expecting this to be introduced in the Finance Bill.  Even retailers who only have small wholesale exposure (beyond the merely “incidental”) will have to register and, when purchasing from UK wholesalers, will have to make sure that their wholesaler is validly registered.  Retailers will need to have processes to check that their wholesaler’s registrations are valid on a regular basis and this links in with the sort of checks that would be expected as part of due diligence.

In some cases, if a trader fails their wholesaler application, their other excise registrations will be at risk, so their whole business is potentially at stake. Failure to comply with the scheme could lead to civil penalties or prosecution. 

The regulatory landscape is particularly active – traders of all kinds will need to remain alert to developments.  This is an area where the WSTA’s knowledge and access to government departments is particularly helpful to members.

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