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The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.

Devaluation and the UK’s wine industry

Harold Wilson’s infamous words on the devaluation of sterling “It does not mean that the pound here in Britain, in your pocket or purse or in your bank, has been devalued.” may seem as relevant today as they were in 1967 following recent events, but the UK’s economy is much different now and the impact of the Brexit fuelled sterling devaluation on the wine industry right here in the UK is certainly being felt.

 

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Fine Wine Mine

Despite our Annual Conference delivering a great day and evening, some of the WSTA team hadn’t quite had enough excitement for one week and headed off in search of more. The next morning we hopped on a train from Paddington and embarked on a visit to WSTA member, Octavian, a fine wine cellar buried in  the heart of Wiltshire.

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Christmas Spice and All Things Nice.

We are delighted to have enjoyed the company of 40 MP’s and Peers, including George Eustice MP, Angus MacNeil MP, Sharon Hodgson MP and Baroness Burt.

And we are proud to say that this annual Christmas drinks is becoming a premium date in the calendar at Westminster, offering a great chance to discuss industry issues in a convivial setting.

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AWRS and due diligence

A number of questions have come in relating to how due diligence will work. It may be that you have already received a questionnaire from trading partners asking all sorts of details about your business.

If you haven’t received one there could be one winging its way to you, so I thought I might try to interpret what the requirements are. 

This is an area that is far from settled and will continue to develop and evolve for some time.

Don’t be alarmed if you receive a letter from a trading partner seeking information about your business. “Due Diligence” is increasingly becoming the new normal, The due diligence requirement already applies to traders in bond and will soon apply to duty paid wholesalers. 

At its heart, it requires businesses to know who they are trading with and then understand the risks of that relationship. The aim is to avoid traders introducing smuggled or counterfeit goods at any part of the supply chain.

It will be a matter for individual businesses to satisfy themselves that their trading partners are suitable.  Whilst trade buyers will eventually be able to see that their proposed trading partner has an AWRS registration and is a “fit and proper” person, that alone will not be enough to satisfy due diligence requirements.

There is some guidance from me on the front page of the WSTA website, which you can access through the members’ section and log-in:

 

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This considers the sort of questions that a business might wish to ask and, in turn, provide to its trading partners.  The list is neither exhaustive not prescriptive and not all questions will be necessary in every case.

I am aware that a number of businesses are not prepared to answer all of the questions that are being asked of them – directors’ passport and home address details are a particularly sore point. There is no obligation to supply all the information being requested.

Common sense will have to come into play here and the person asking the questions will need to consider whether they have enough information to go ahead with the trade.

 If some information is absent – this can increase commercial risk, or at least affect the terms on which parties are willing to trade. 

Put simply, the more information you have, the more comfortable you may be in offering better credit terms, increased volumes and having less frequent reviews of the relationship.

The most important point is that due diligence is not about having answers to a set list of questions. Think about the questions you need to ask and analyse  the effect of the answers you receive against your research and against your business’ risk appetite.  

I believe there is a learning curve for businesses and HMRC and that the official guidance will develop further once it is up and running in the real world.

 Competition laws may also preclude companies from seeking some information about, for example, the underlying reasons for a deal or its profitability.

There may be a role for third party due diligence consultants to hold information securely and report a clean bill of health (or otherwise) to an inquiring party without breaching confidentiality.

I am working on a model due diligence policy and we also hope to be able to offer the services of a selection of external due diligence consultants to members in the near future.

 

 

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WSTA's Logistics Group calls for vigilance against delivery hijacks and company identity fraud

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Alcohol companies have been asked to warn lorry drivers not to be duped by thieves posing as warehouse staff.

Following a spate of thefts logistics companies flagged up the risk of robberies at a recent meeting of WSTA Logistics Group.

As part of the Group’s work it considers fraud risks and contributes to discussions with HMRC through the Joint Alcohol Anti-Fraud Task Force.

Alcohol exports and imports have recently been targeted on their way to the warehouse.

The lorry drivers are stopped near the destination by someone with plausible paperwork, who appears to be expecting the load and claims to work at the warehouse.

The driver is told the warehouse is busy and that the goods should be dropped off round the corner.

It is, of course, stolen at that point.

There are also instances when drivers are alleged to have colluded in this type of theft.

To prevent being raided companies should give drivers clear instructions never to drop their load anywhere other than within the warehouse premises.

If they are approached drivers should call 999 immediately and ask for Police assistance.

In a second type of fraud, legitimate company details are being used to make corrupt purchase orders appear genuine.

The fraudsters use contact details such as telephone numbers and e-mail addresses which are subtly different from the real ones - for example .com instead of .co.uk.

The delivery address will take the goods straight to the thieves’ premises.

Or on some occasions the correct delivery address will be given but the consignment is then diverted while en route.

Sometimes these frauds appear crude; others appear very plausible and are often addressed to hundreds of potential suppliers, who may be lured in by the idea of a major UK customer.

These crimes can be difficult to prevent and detect.

Regular suppliers can be given clear advice about how orders will be made and processed, but prospective suppliers do not have that protection.

Companies can help by being willing to respond quickly to queries from potential suppliers who may be victims of this sort of scam.

 

To help stamp out this type of fraud, companies are asked to report incidences to ActionFraud – www.actionfraud.police.uk and to the WSTA as we can alert members of the Fraud Prevention Unit to the details being abused in each case.

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ENGLAND AND AUSTRALIA CLASH IN WINE-TASTING RUGBY WORLD CUP

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England scored a shock win over Australia in a battle of the white wines led by former England rugby ace and wine buff Andrew Sheridan.

However, The Wine and Spirit Trade Association England v Australia 'wine off' ended in fans giving an overall victory to Australia when the two nations went head to head in a blind tasting of sparkling, white and red.

In a tight run contest, three of Australia’s bestselling wines were pitted against three wines from the award winning Bolney Wine Estate. Australia pushed their way over the try line with their red and sparkling, but there was a runaway win for Bolney in the white wine category for its Bacchus.

Much like their status on the rugby field, Australian wines are clearly still global heavyweights, but this taste test shows that the English are beginning to put up a pretty good fight.

When it comes to a price match the clear winners in this contest are the Australian wines. English wine producers believe the latest government commitments to support English vineyards could make the price of English wine more palatable in the future.

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Sheridan, 35, who hung up his boots last year after sustaining a neck injury, said: 

"The Australian wines come out on top for value, and in this blind tasting snuck over the line to score in the red and sparkling categories.

 

“The Aussies know how to make a very drinkable, reasonably priced wine which will be accepted at anyone's World Cup party. But there is no doubt that the English underdogs are snapping at Australia's heels in the wine market.

 

“Overall it was an evenly matched contest with each side showing different strengths and weaknesses as expected from very different climates.

 

“In the Australian camp, we didn't come across a bad wine and like their rugby players the wines were consistently very good. But we shouldn't under estimate English wine. They have the potential to surprise everyone and all it will take is a burst of sheer class to come out on top."

Sheridan has shown his strength on the pitch, but is now pouring his passion and drive into the wine trade. The burly former prop lives in the south of France with his wife and five year-old daughter where he is immersing himself into the world of wine.

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Not only is he heaping on the wine qualifications - having already passed his WSET level 2 and 3 and is midway through his diploma for level 4 - he is also taking a hands on approach to learning about vino. Sheridan said:

"This harvest, I volunteered at the Bandol wines vineyard in Castell-Reynoard.

"I want to learn about this industry from all sides. Hand picking the grapes was hard work. I didn't come out of the vines as battered as I was from the rugby pitch, but it was certainly back breaking work."

Sheridan used his wine tasting expertise to judge three Sussex wines from the Bolney Wine Estate against Treasury Wine Estate's Australian Wolf Blass and Lindemans.

Four English fans and four Australian joined Andrew in marking their winners in three competing categories. The wines were then individually marked with points awarded for appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish. Sheridan said:

"The surprising victory came in the shape of Bolney's Bacchus which came top with both English and Aussie fans.

 

“The Australian wines were consistently good and very drinkable.  But what seemed to unite both sides and what impressed me, was how aromatic and sophisticated the English white wine was.

“It is an exciting time for English wines. They are showing that the cooler climate wines can be complex and compete with their more established New World cousins."

 

The convincing win for Bacchus over the popular Chardonnay, Lindemans Bin 65 2014 shows why English wine is filling up its trophy cabinet.

 

In the 2007 Decanter awards English wine didn't achieve a single win - in contrast to this year when they were awarded over 100 medals.

 

The red wine taste test showed the Australian, Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon ahead of the charge when pitted against Bolney's Pinot Noir. Sheridan added:

 

"The Wolf Blass was packed with very obvious black fruit flavours, but what I found interesting was it was not too heavy. At 13.5 % abv, there was less alcohol than you might expect from a punchy Australian Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

“In comparison the English offering, Bolney's Pinot Noir, had strong red fruit aromas, but not the same concentration of flavours as its Australian competitor. The English red was impressive for a cool climate wine and may well suit drinkers after a lighter red wine."

 

Finally the sparkling category put the Wolf Blass Yellow Label sparkling up against Bolney's Blanc de Blanc 2010, where fans put the Australian fizz in front. Sheridan said:

 

"I have to say I found the English sparkling had the best texture and the longer finish. It was refreshing and citrusy, but perhaps a little high on the acidity front. Australia's fizz had more weight but for me, not as much finesse when it came to texture."

Australia is known for its more favourable grape growing conditions, but English wine is fast becoming a real competitor in the global wine market. 

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Positive news from HMRC

HMRC have indicated there is NO policy of automatically applying conditions to each excise trader authorisation that they issue.

They will only apply conditions where they identify a risk.

When HMRC receive an application to vary conditions, they will also consider if there is any need to have the conditions at all.

HMRC have made it clear they are open to hearing from businesses who would like to have their excise authorisations reviewed or varied.

I’ve now seen several examples of businesses applying to have warehousing conditions or WOWGR authorisations reviewed - resulting in all their conditions being assessed and removed.

This is an encouraging development and has given businesses more commercial flexibility.

 

I believe there is a good opportunity to rationalise conditions and I would encourage other members to make the most of the opening.

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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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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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WSTA fighting fraud

WSTA fighting fraud

Alcohol fraud in the UK damages legitimate businesses, brand reputation and deprives the Treasury of duty income. Illicit products also adversely affect consumers and in some cases can cause significant harm. It is estimated that alcohol related fraud costs the Treasury £1.3bn in lost revenue a year. This happens through a range of methods including failure to pay duty, theft from retailers and wholesalers and illicit alcohol.

While the problem is significant, too often information about incidents of fraud, particularly at the retail level, is too fragmented. The WSTA takes this issue very seriously on behalf of our members and has therefore been working on a number of initiatives to support them to tackle this problem.

We are pleased therefore to announce that the WSTA has launched a new confidential fraud reporting tool at www.wstafraudreport.co.uk.  This allows anyone to report a suspected fraud on a simple form on a confidential basis and this will plot the incident on an online map with a link to the details that have been submitted. With the ability to identify hotspots and trends, we will be able to share anonymously this with law enforcement colleagues to help inform their response.

For this resource to be successful, we are urging members (particularly retail members and wholesalers) to identify concerns and actively report them, as well as actively support the initiative and publicise this site in their own businesses websites.

We have deliberately tried to keep the site simple and business-like, with only a small amount of information being sought and we will be refining this in the light of experience.

Once a report is submitted, it is invisible to the person submitting it for data protection reasons.  We will be notified when each report is made and assess it before it goes on the system or is shared with law enforcement.

I am confident this will be a welcome addition to the range of reporting mechanisms currently available and go a long way in our fight against alcohol related fraud.

For more information you can visit http://www.wsta.co.uk/what-we-do/policy/133-info/607-fraud-prevention-unit

 

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Just 93 days to go...

The outcome of the next General Election is far from predictable, but one thing is for certain and that is whoever forms the next Government after polling day in 93 days’ time will have a big impact on the wine and spirit industry.

With key policy issues such as taxation, licensing, labelling, and the responsibility agenda all to be looked at and decided on by a new Government, potentially a coalition of two or more parties, we at the WSTA were keen to ensure that political parties were not only made aware of the impact they had on the industry, but also understood what policies they could adopt in order to help us grow, create jobs and further support our consumers.

Last week we therefore published our Election Manifesto outlining a positive policy programme that covers all of the issues on which we work. We will be sending these to the political parties and asking them to support the industry through adopting these policies. Some of the commitments in the manifesto include:

Business and tax - In addition to the 2% cut in duty that we are calling for in our budget campaign (www.droptheduty.co.uk), we are also asking party leaders to visit a distillery and a vineyard during the election campaign. This will give the opportunity to speak to those working in the industry about the problems they face and understand why we are calling for more support. We are also asking the Government to work with the trade on helping to develop qualifications for those that work in the wine or spirit industry and for them to look at introducing a lower duty rate for micro distillers which had such a positive impact when introduced for micro brewers.

Alcohol related harm - The WSTA takes its work around alcohol responsibility very seriously and is a commitment partner with the Government in delivering the Responsibility Deal pledges. Yet too often Government intervention is not targeted on those that misuse alcohol. We are therefore asking for a break in the constant changes to the Licensing Act and asking the Government to focus policies instead on the minority who misuse alcohol. We are also calling for alcohol education to be a feature on the national curriculum and for the Government to protect the safer drinking guidelines that are now on over 80% of labels.

Agriculture and consumer awareness - With the growth of the English wine industry we are looking to highlight the agricultural importance of the sector by asking parties to consider looking at tax incentives for those that invest in vineyards and ensuring that UK vineyards have access to regional development funding to support improvements to the landscape. We are also looking to engage with the Government on the issue of labelling, including calorie labelling, which is currently being considered at EU level.

These are just some of the highlights, the manifesto itself contains many more. If you want to know more about the commitments we are asking for you can find the full manifesto at the following link: http://www.wsta.co.uk/images/PAN/manifesto/Manifesto2015.pdf

A two page version is available here: http://www.wsta.co.uk/images/PAN/manifesto/Manifesto2pg.pdf

The infographics are available here: http://www.wsta.co.uk/images/PAN/manifesto/Manifestographics.pdf

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The great glass rollercoaster

A case study into how the WSTA works for its members.

At the beginning of 2012 the cost of recycling glass, more specifically the cost of glass Packaging Recovery Notes (PRN), stood at a stable average of £10 per tonne. However a combination of tougher recycling targets from the Department of Environment and failures in the PRN market saw this price rocket to a peak in 2013 of £85 per tonne, a staggering 850% increase.

At first one or two members highlighted this issue to us, hugely concerned about the impact this was having and, in one instance, threatening the future viability of a  business.  After further inquiry it became clear that this wasn’t just a minor issue affecting a few people, but a cost burden that was having a major impact on cash flow and producers’ bottom lines across the trade. We calculated that when PRN prices were at their peak, producers had to find an additional £51m per year to cover the costs.

We knew we needed to act and so the WSTA took a leading role in co-ordinating the response across the trade. First, we coordinated an industry lobby of the then Minister which led to a review of glass recycling by the Advisory Committee on Packaging in 2013.  The review concluded, amongst others, that the recycling targets had been based on a significant over-estimation of the amount of glass circulating.  In a nutshell, businesses had to recycle more than they needed to and this was putting a strain on the supply chain forcing prices up.

We were delighted that the Minister took on board our concerns and the Department announced earlier this year it would revise downwards both the estimate for the amount of waste glass produced annually and also the business recycling rates for glass. The recycling rate for obligated businesses came down from 81% to 75% in 2014.  

We then looked to address the failures in the PRN market. A major criticism of the PRN system has been a lack of transparency about PRN prices which has undermined industry confidence in the system. In order to make this more transparent, the WSTA has now launched a dedicated website page for our members that will provide weekly updates, in partnership with The Environment Exchange, of PRN prices.

WSTA Members can access the prices here: http://www.wsta.co.uk/packaging-recovery-note-prices

Now they will be able to see what else is happening in the market and whether the prices they are paying their current compliance scheme are in line with the market price. In addition we are working with complydirectto develop a compliance scheme specifically tailored for the needs of WSTA members.

This action has thankfully helped to bring a costs down to a more acceptable level, now nearly to £20 per tonne, significantly easing the pressure on the trade. While we cannot always foresee when an issue like PRNs occur, when they do the WSTA is on hand to support our members to navigate them as best we can.

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Drop the Duty - Small drop, big cheer! Please help secure a 2% cut in alcohol duty

With the New Year already well under way, I can think of at least one important resolution that I am determined to keep – calling for the Government to ‘Drop the Duty’ on wine and spirits by 2% in the upcoming Budget.

With just nine weeks to go before the Budget and the election only months away, we now have the perfect opportunity to make a positive case about the huge and growing contribution that our great industry makes to a successful UK economy.

Although the sector had successes in 2014, particularly in helping to secure the end of the alcohol duty escalator and a spirits duty freeze in the 2014 Budget, the wine and spirits industry is still having to work within a duty system that places unnecessary burdens on producers, distributors and consumers.

Our ‘Drop the Duty!’ campaign, launched in partnership with the Scotch Whisky Association and the TaxPayers’ Alliance, aims to go some way to solving this by calling for the Chancellor to make a modest 2% cut in alcohol duty. To highlight the importance of this, we took over a pub in Central London showing exactly what your local would look like if the Chancellor was in charge.

 

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We’ve also got the figures to prove that a 2% drop in duty would bring major benefits to the UK economy. Recent analysis undertaken by EY has found that a modest 2% cut in duty on wine and spirits this year would lead to an additional 24,500 jobs across the sector. This not only allows the industry to continue to flourish, enabling producers to invest and expand their businesses, but will also boost the UK economy more broadly – generating an additional £1.5 billion for the public finances. 

As we all know, this is not just an issue for the health of the wine and spirits industry. Consumers are also being unfairly hit by the current duty system. In the UK we pay almost 60% tax on a bottle of wine and almost 80% on a bottle of whisky or gin.  Remarkably, wine duty hasn’t had a cut since 1984 – the same year that Wham were topping the charts with ‘Wake me up before you Go-Go’ and George Osborne was celebrating his 13th birthday.

 

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So, ahead of George Osborne standing up at the Dispatch Box on 18 March, we will be campaigning hard for this change by highlighting how a modest drop in alcohol duty would lead to a significant increase in economic activity across the wine and spirits sector.

Please help us to spread the word about the campaign by emailing  your MP on our campaign website and asking them to urge the Chancellor to cut alcohol duty by 2%. Last year’s successful campaign shows that your email can make a difference. Thank you.

Here’s hoping that we will celebrating at least one completed New Year’s resolution by giving George a big cheer for dropping duty on Budget day! 

 

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