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Drinks industry must champion the positives, says WSTA boss

Published:  02 November, 2012

The drinks industry needs to get "on the front foot" and champion its contribution to the local and national economy, says the WSTA chief executive.

Speaking exclusively to Harpers, WSTA boss Miles Beale said it was time for the drinks industry to change the story, saying "we need to be considered in a different light".

"We've got to get out on the front foot and explain what we are doing and contributing to the UK economy," he said in an interview with Harpers. The industry should also be highlighting its contribution to a "productive social life" and "part of the fabric of UK society".

According to the WSTA's UK market overview, 2 million jobs are supported by the trade, which contributes £16 billion in taxes to the economy. The value of the UK alcohol market is put at £37 billion.

A spokesman for Accolade Wines said: "We would absolutely back up Mr Beale's comments. Accolade Wines is at the forefront of manufacturing excellence in Europe - operating the biggest wine production facility in Europe at Accolade Park in Bristol.

"Wines destined for markets across Europe are being filled, bottled and sent into a continent-wide supply chain through a centre of excellence, staffed by outstanding local technicians and teams, based right here in the UK."

Bibendum's managing director Michael Saunders said: "We [the trade] contribute a very significant amount to the Treasury through duty but also PAYE and other taxes; we employ thousands of people; we have made huge strides in promoting the responsible use of alcohol; and we have an environmental record that stands up to scrutiny.

"Most importantly of all, we need to fight back against the neo-prohibitionists and stop the demonisation of quality wines and spirits. If we don't emphasise the benefits of enjoying a fantastic glass of wine, then no one will do it for us. It is time for us to shout about our positive contribution to both the economy and society as a whole."

Ben Smith, Enotria's communications manager, said: "It's true that with the seemingly endless stream of 'bad news' stories around alcohol abuse, the drinks industry as a whole can start to feel quite vilified.

"It's encouraging to hear Mr Beale's comments. Wine is, and has been for centuries, right at the heart of our culture, and as he says, makes a major contribution to our economy too. Of course as drinks suppliers it's essential we market our products in a responsible way, but equally we shouldn't feel the need to be constantly apologising for our existence."

Smaller businesses also have a part to play. Ted Sandbach, managing director of the Oxford Wine Company, said: "We are a growing company - we've taken on four to five new people in the past year." He added that independent wine merchants contribute strongly to the local community, through offering tasting events, sponsoring local sports teams and fundraising for local charities.

To read Miles Beale's first interview with the wine press, see this week's issue of Harpers.