spirits SUMMIT 2017 - Make that a double!

In a difficult political context linked to Brexit, increased euroscepticism, doubts on European leadership, the spirits sector is firmly looking at the glass half full and dedicated the Spirits Summit 2017 to address the conditions needed for the sector to continue to grow, generating revenues and jobs in the EU.

To answer the question on how to “Make that a double”, Cathy Smith - the moderator of the day - was accompanied by Susan Danger, CEO of Amcham EU; MEP Danuta Hübner; Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland; and Jose Luis Hermoso, Research Director at IWSR. Last but not least, Commissioner Hogan came to offer his vision of the sector.

“The Irish whiskey industry is on-track to double exports by 2020 compared to 2014; and we aim to double exports again by 2030!” said Patricia Callan. The factors behind the Irish Whiskey Revival which has seen the number of operational distilleries grow from 4 to 18 were nicely explained by Jose Luis Hermoso. Consumption patterns have changed over the years. “Consumers – and not only Millennials - drink less but better” he said. They are in search for authenticity and special experience which means that by 2021, premium to super premium spirits category is expected to grow by 40%. GI protection is also a success factor protecting investments and high standard of the spirits categories. This protection should not be undermined by the revision of the Regulation 110/2008 said the President Joep Stassen. In this respect, he called for a pause in the Council’s discussions to allow all parties to assess the possible impact of the many changes being proposed. Finally, export outside Europe has been a key driver for the growth of the sector over the last decade. As stated by Susan Danger, the European Union is in a good place at the moment regarding trade and has to ride the wave of the successful CETA to promote further trade negotiations (eg, with New-Zealand and Australia).

“But not all is positive, serious challenges exist” explained Patricia Callan and Brexit is one of them. For Ireland, “Brexit would mean one island, part in the EU, part outside!”. The reintroduction of border checks and the end of the custom union in the case of a hard Brexit would deeply burden Irish industries which work in between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Commissioner Hogan urged the entire membership of spiritsEUROPE to “continue making the case for a sensible, soft Brexit”. MEP Danuta Hübner shared the same opinion, while inviting the spirits sector to prepare the ground for Brexit.

“Spirit drinks are an essential asset of the European economy and a showcase for European excellence worldwide” said Commission Hogan who was appraised by Joep Stassen for his commitment to “diplomatic offensive” travelling to key export markets to build stronger trade relationships with third countries for our mutual benefit. The “case for trade” he made was fully in line with the messages delivered by Susan Danger. There is a huge opportunity for Europe to assume the leadership role in global trade, and the Commission needs the companies at local level to support a positive rhetoric in favour of trade. According to Susan, “it is time for Europe to step up” and to follow the 3 TTTs rule “change the Talk, build the Trust and now is the Time”.  When asked what is the greatest threat to free trade currently, the answer was “the failure to properly explain its benefits to NGOs, consumers, trade unions, etc.” and this is what AmchamEU is doing through a comprehensive campaign.

Presenting the benefits of trade, putting people at the heart of trade is the objective of the TRADENOW website launched at the Summit. Building on the success of CETANOW, spiritsEUROPE launched this initiative for the benefit of those who share the vision of an EU that embraces better trade and innovation, while also protecting Europeans, and doing more to help them adapt to a changing world.  The website is an open invitation for everyone to join this platform and get his/her your voice heard … NOW more than ever.

About 300 participants attended the Summit and the Annual Cocktail Reception. Some pictures here to testify it was a success and good fun.

“Spirit drinks are an essential asset of the European economy and a showcase for European excellence worldwide. ”
Commissioner Phil Hogan