The Grapevine

The WSTA's views, distilled.

Why are we against including glass in Deposit Return Scheme?

This week the WSTA has responded to consultations from the UK Government on how best to improve bottle recycling in the UK. However, in light of the Scottish announcement to include glass in their deposit return scheme (DRS) proposals, we have been clear that we do not believe that glass should be included, as it massively increases the costs and complexity of the scheme, in the DRS scheme and we argue that kerbside collections are better for consumers, businesses and the environment.

What is a DRS? A DRS increases the cost of particular products, like glass bottles, which is refunded if you, the customer, return the packaging to a specific location, for example; a registered convenience store or remote vending machine (RVM). The refund might be cash or a token which can be exchanged at a later date. The question is, should we improve the existing kerbside collection system or buy 3,000 RVMs and implement a whole new operation? 

We felt it was important to explain the thinking behind our message back to the Scottish and UK Governments on why a DRS for glass should not make the cut. Let’s start with the obvious, glass is heavy and brittle and more likely to smash in transit. Plastic can be compacted safely by customers and small retailers and carried or thrown into the back of the car in bulk, making it much easier to recycle than glass bottles. Returning glass, en masse, to shops or reverse vending machines (RVMs) to redeem deposits would be difficult for people relying on public transport and even those with cars are likely to find themselves making additional trips. Forcing people to make unnecessary extra journeys in their cars to drive heavy loads for recycling isn’t environmentally friendly or time efficient. Glass will account for 80% of the weight of the scheme but contribute only 7% of material revenue so, as a result of including glass in the Scottish Scheme, customers should expect costs to rise and more travelling to recycle their bottles.

The WSTA supports the continued improvement to kerbside collections which makes it easy for us all to commit to recycling. RVM machines, that accept glass, aren’t going to be cheap and will be hard for smaller shops to purchase and find room to install – we expect some independent shops to go out of business as a result of this policy.

According to research carried out by WRAP - the Waste and Resources Action Programme – people on a lower incomes score the lowest in recycling rates. Switching from kerbside collection to a DRS is not going to make it any easier for more people to participate. A DRS on glass is likely to have a bigger impact on poorer people or those who struggle to leave the home, especially those without cars or who have a nearby machine. If they are unable to redeem their deposits the DRS could end up becoming an unfair tax on the poor.

At a time when Minimum Unit Pricing is being rolled out in Scotland, a policy that disproportionally affects those on lower incomes, the WSTA does not believe that politicians should be adding insult to injury by introducing a new system which would once again unfairly affect the poorest in our society.

The fear is that if glass was included in the DRS it might encourage producers to swap glass for plastic which is cheaper to produce and will be easier for customers to recycle. A DRS for glass will require a new barcode system – which is likely to cost millions to introduce and increase costs on consumers yet again. In Scotland they still aren’t sure if they will include a barcode system – but without it there is nothing to stop fraudulent material crossing the border from England to claim 20p on each bottle! Some producers, on tight margins, may decide to pause trading in Scotland because the Scottish Government has ignored the concerns we have raised regarding the affordability of their proposals which include glass. This is a step in completely the wrong direction and will mean less choice for Scottish customers.

As though it couldn’t get any worse, the Scottish proposals for DRS don’t include all glass packaging, meaning jam jars and some other glass will need to be left in kerbside collections while wine, spirit and beer bottles will need to be taken to shops for customers to get their deposits back. This is going to be a nightmare for consumers as it will be confusing and more costly, as having two systems for glass makes both systems less financially viable.

The UK already exceeds the current targets for recycling and they can be improved further by small changes to the existing system – which are currently being consulted on by the UK Government. Glass is 100% infinitely recyclable, inert, and preferable to plastic because it doesn’t create microplastic pollution. We need to focus on improving glass kerbside and on street collections. We firmly believe the Scottish and UK Government should encourage the use of glass bottling rather than penalise customers for making the more environmentally friendly sustainable choice.

Continue reading
185 Hits

International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day and with so many talented women working in the wine and spirit trade we have a lot to celebrate.

We’ve got botanical wizards including Joanne Moore crafting gins like Bloom for Quintessential Brands, pioneering Kathy Caton distilling and championing Brighton Gin and Alex Robson who is the driving force behind the King of Soho Gin. But it’s not just Mother’s Ruin which is winning thanks to these creative chemists. Kristeen Campbell has ensured that Scotch gets in touch with its feminine side as master blender of the Famous Grouse family. Another legend in the industry is Joy Spence who has been making rum for the Appleton Estate for over twenty years. She became the first woman to hold the position of master blender in the spirits industry and is still packing a punch.

But we can’t stop there… the female talent amongst the English wine industry is bountiful. There is quite a list *intake of breathe* - Sam Linter MD and head winemaker at Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex, Victoria Ash wine maker at Hush Heath Estate in Kent, Cherie Spriggs head wine maker at Nyetimber Vineyard in West Sussex, Corinne Seeley, head wine maker at Exton Park Vineyard in Hampshire, Emma Rice, head winemaker at Hattingley Valley and not forgetting Tamara Roberts CEO of Ridgeview Wine Estate in West Sussex,  Rebecca Furleigh joint owner of the Furleigh Estate in Dorset and Sarah Driver who jointly owns Rathfinny Wine Estate in the South Downs of Sussex….. *and exhale*. 

However the oestrogen levels noticeably drop when you look to the very top of the larger companies. In board rooms across the country we are all too often met with faces of gentlemen of a certain age. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against gentlemen of a certain age, I’m married to one! That is not to say that sisters aren’t doing it for themselves very successfully in business, but the corps are still predominantly run by men. A lot of the boardrooms remain full of testosterone and women continue to fight for a seat round the table. At the WSTA we aren’t exempt from the issue. At the beginning of last year we had three women on the board, but this was short lived. Diana Hunter left after stepping down from her post at Conviviality and next to leave the WSTA board was Kari Daniels from Tesco, whose brilliant leadership skills meant she was promoted to chief executive of Tesco Ireland. The WSTA currently has one woman with a seat at its board table, Tamara Roberts, who was recently named Sussex Business Woman of the Year. We are set to announce another one soon.  Where are the others you might ask? Trust me we want more and will find more, but it’s a tougher proposition as the pool of senior women to pick from is just not there….yet.   

We know there are plenty of businesses striving to promote and support diversity at work. For example, Treasury Wine Estates has established a TWEforShe program to encourage gender diversity and workplace inclusion.

Many of our retailer members are also running similar schemes which support women who are trailblazers in the industry. 

But we can always do more. On International Women’s Day let’s take a moment to reflect and ask ourselves is the wine and spirit industry doing enough to create an environment where women have the confidence and are encouraged to reach for the top? There are no excuses the talent is there, so let’s ensure that our trade is paving the way for a new wave of women CEO’s.

PS if there is WSTA member with a female leader who we have missed out in consideration for a place on the board please make yourselves known.

By Lucy Panton 

Continue reading
346 Hits

@optawine – Market Report: The Good (more gin), the Bad (less wine) and the Ugly (the Budget)

Market report time again with a trend that is becoming very common, a trend that is concerning and a trend that is surprising for some but at the same time gives me an opportunity to say ‘I told you so’.

Quarterly gin update (we may as well start calling it what it is)

In yearly sales, gin’s growth added £208m in the off trade and £250m in the on trade, £458m in total representing 38% growth. Gin in the on trade totals £947m in yearly sales, whilst value added in quarterly sales from March to June was £86m. If the same growth appears from June to September (the next market report due out in December), gin in the on trade will be a £1bn industry for the first time. Similarly, yearly sales of gin in the off trade is worth £710m with quarterly growth from March to June was worth £62m. Similar growth each quarter would mean gin would be worth £1bn to the off trade by the end of next year. Finally, the latest trade figures show that, so far this year (January to July), gin exports have reached £334m, an increase of 17% on the same period in 2017, with an average monthly increase of 18%. If this average persists then gin exports will be worth well over £600m in 2018. We predicted gin would be a £2bn industry by the end of this year, is £3bn now on the horizon?

Also, a quick note about gin’s importance to the on trade: gin account for 66% of spirits’ yearly value added in this issue of the market report, and 61% of total alcohol sales growth. Without gin, total alcohol yearly value sales growth would have been an entire 1% lower and spirit’s growth would have been 3.9% lower.


12 months 16 June 2017

12 months 16 June 2018























Without gin…













What’s happening with wine?

It is no secret that the UK wine trade is facing tough trading conditions and has been for some time. Total wine sales (still, sparkling, Champagne and fortified, on and off trade) declined by 2% by yearly volume sales and increased by 1% by value (given inflation as it is currently, can you call +1% genuine growth?). Take out sparkling wines and those numbers change to -3% and -1% respectively.

In particular, still wine has struggled to find growth, save for a few pockets of good news such as New Zealand wine, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc. For whatever reason, still wine has witnessed long term decline which is not helped by consistently being treated worse than any other alcohol category at Budget time (see below). Add a severe currency devaluation leading to inflation and therefore price increases, it is safe to say the wine category is facing challenges.

This is particularly prevalent in the on trade where this market report posted yearly sales growth of -8% by volume and -5% by value. Since 2012, volumes have decline by 18%, 8% by value. Page 13 of the latest market report shows wine by countries of origin littered with double-digit negative growth, save for New Zealand and Italian wine (much of that growth coming from Prosecco), wine by grape paints a similar picture. Part of this could be down to product substitution – consumers choosing Prosecco or gin instead, always hard to accurately quantify – but what Phil Montgomery has highlighted in his commentary (p.9) must also be relevant: that the number of restaurant outlets has fallen and is perhaps too competitive and geographically concentrated. With its association with food, the restaurant sector’s volatility could also be a key reason for wine’s longer-term decline.

Sparkling wine reaching a peak?

A surprise for many; sparkling wine (ex. Champagne) has posted its first negative growth since 2012, - -4% in off trade quarterly volume sales - in what could be a sign the sparkling wine is reaching peak. Growth in yearly sales remains positive and in the on trade they are still in high double figures, so there is probably still some way to travel before a new equilibrium is reached, but it’s worth noting that growth hasn’t been as high as many have come to expect. Except me, I told you so.

November’s Budget

It’s getting to that time of year again where the WSTA are ramping up activity in calling for a freeze in alcohol duty at the next Budget in November. Last November, the Chancellor listened to our call and froze all alcohol duties, saving the UK wine and spirit industry an estimated £247m in duty liabilities for 2018. Duty is linked to inflation, so with current rates being so high, and with Brexit proper just round the corner, there has rarely been a more important time to get involved and help the WSTA team secure a much needed freeze for wine and spirit duty. If you’d like to get involved, please read Tom’s brilliant quick guide to the Budget and then email [email protected] to find out more.

Continue reading
1021 Hits

Quick Guide To The Autumn Budget

Quick Guide To The Autumn Budget


Following last year’s welcome freeze in alcohol duty, it is once again time for the Budget. This year, as was the case in 2017, the WSTA are calling on the Chancellor to show support for the wine and spirit industry and freeze alcohol duty. Here’s a quick guide on what to look out for during this year’s Budget.


What does the Chancellor currently have planned?

As set out in the Government’s policy paper on alcohol duty, which was released in March 2017:

The public finances assume that all alcohol duty rates rise by RPI each year. This measure aims to support the public finances by implementing the expected indexation of alcohol duty rates for the fiscal year 2017 to 2018.

Unless the Chancellor explicitly says otherwise, the current levels of alcohol duty are slated to rise based on the rate of RPI inflation, set to be around 3% every year up until 2022. You may remember March 2017, when Philip Hammond stated there were to be ‘no changes’ to the Government’s policy on alcohol duty – a rise was planned, nothing changed, and alcohol duty rates actually increased by 3.4%.

So unless you hear the words ‘freeze’ or ‘cut’, assume that the inflationary rise will take place. The WSTA will confirm any changes in our Budget Report, which will be sent out shortly after the Chancellor’s speech ends.


Why is the WSTA calling for a freeze?

The WSTA is calling on the Chancellor to freeze alcohol duty again, as he did last year. We’re pointing out that the latest HMRC data shows that, after the freeze last year, The Treasury raised an extra £270 million in following six months – an increase of 5%.


This month, we received independent analysis from EY, set out in a report we had commissioned, showing that the boost in economic activity if duty were frozen again would leave the wider economy better off, at no cost to the Treasury.


Put simply, a freeze leaves everybody better off – businesses, consumers, and the Treasury itself, and that is the case the WSTA will be making between now and the Budget.


How can we help?


WSTA members will recently have received an email from the WSTA setting out exactly how you can get involved, but to recap:

1. Writing to local MP – We have pulled together a draft template letter, to Members’ local MPs which highlights the impact of duty increases and asks them to champion our cause with the Chancellor. 

2. Sign a letter – We need WSTA members of all sizes and types to lend their names to joint letters we will be coordinating to the Chancellor and other Cabinet members.

3. Let us know the impact on your business – We are always looking for examples about the impact of duty increases on businesses, so that we can develop impactful case studies. For example duty bill as % of your turnover; no. of employees; block on export ambitions and so on. Let us know if you are happy to help with this type of information.

4. Support us on social media – Follow us on Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn, where we will be posting using the #fairfreezeforall. Please feel free to retweet/share our posts and spread our Budget messaging.


For any further information or to get in touch about how you can get involved, please email the WSTA Budget team at [email protected]

Continue reading
849 Hits

A win for the industry and a win(dfall) for the Treasury: duty collections increased following duty freeze

Last November’s Budget was in many ways a strange affair. With the prospect of an RPI duty increase in the region of 4% and a need to sure up public finances, I think it’s fair to say we all expected the worst. As it turned out, all that worry was for nothing as the Chancellor stood at the dispatch box and announced a freeze on all alcohol products “recognising the pressure on household budgets. And backing our Great British pubs”. As a result of this decision, the wine and spirit industry is estimated to have saved £247m in tax liabilities and were also saved the burden of price changes at Christmas, a crucial trading period for our members. 

But it turns out the Treasury benefited anyway, as we predicted. The latest duty collection figures from HMRC show that from December 2017 and April 2018, duty collections increased by 2% on the same period last year, in real terms that is £86m. For the WSTA members specifically, the increase was 2% or £67m, meaning that the wine and spirit industry accounted for 78% of the increase. Wine collections have so far increased £33m (+2%) and spirit collections increased £34m (+2%). Overall, wine and spirit duty collections are at record levels, with a projected £7.7bn in revenue for the financial year 2017/18, up £140m from the previous year.

Historically, wine and spirit products tend to account for more than their fair share of increased duty payments, as shown above. That wine and spirit products account for nearly £4 in every £5 of added revenue from alcohol duty collected by HMRC probably points to increased wine and spirit sales for the festive period, particularly sparkling wine and the last market report shows that gin also had an excellent Christmas period, and an excellent first quarter of the 2018 for much of the industry.  

In the slightly longer term, wine and spirit duty collections continue to increase to record levels. The wine industry paid £4.3bn (+6% on 2016) in duty in 2017 whilst the spirit industry paid £3.5bn (+6% on 2016), with total alcohol duty payments totalling £11.6bn, up 6% on 2016. In real terms the increase amounts to £695m extra duty payment on 2016, 75% of this increase came from the wine and spirit industry, showing again that the two categories over-index in terms of shouldering the burden of duty collections.

There is more to consider when combining actual duty collections with the OBR projections (for 2017/18 they were £4.3bn for wine and £3.4bn for spirit drinks). Firstly, and most notably, their consumption projections are, at best, curious: they expect wine consumption in the UK to increase over the next five years which is in direct contradiction with what we have been for years seeing in the market. That said, the duty freeze in November was welcome for consumers, particularly at a time when it looks like wages are just starting to rise consistently for the first time since before the financial crisis in 2007/8.

Secondly, given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, projections of inflation will likely change between now and the end of the transition period in 2020, so it is likely that the real picture will look very different when it comes to it, should the RPI-linked duty rate increases continue out of kilter with CPI inflation. This is surely no way to plan the public finances or calm an already uncertain business environment, especially one so heavily dependent on cross-border trade.

Finally, Scotland will implement MUP in May. This policy is without precedent and, though the Scottish Government have said duty collections will go down (offset slightly by VAT increases), this means that it is very difficult to know what distortive effects MUP will have on what the OBR will project for inflation, consumption volumes and, ultimately, duty collections for the public purse. What is clear is that MUP has yet to affect the projections, given that volumes continue to rise over the next five years.

In March, we met with the new Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, mainly by way of introduction but also to highlight the general concerns of the industry as part of the new year-round campaigning effort on the budget. He came across as well-briefed and understanding of the issues facing the industry, asking sensible questions and showing a particular interest in exports, distillery growth and the English wine industry. This is an encouraging start to our relationship with the new minister, one which should be fruitful as we look to educate him further on the prominence of our industry.

You can download and view the latest duty bulletin releases on the HMRC website here.

Continue reading
960 Hits