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Worldwide Brewing Alliance – working together on global challenges

On 07/11/14 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

Representatives of brewers and brewing trade associations from across the world met in Amsterdam on the 14th and 15th of October for the annual meeting of the Worldwide Brewing Alliance (WBA) and Global Brewers Initiative.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the many common issues faced by the brewing industry worldwide, share best practice, and strengthen collaboration in addressing these issues. The WBA also engages directly with global institutions such as the World Health Organisation on strategies to address the harmful use of alcohol as well as other bodies who can impact on the commercial freedoms of brewers.

The first session focused on work promoting beer as part of a healthy lifestyle and diet, and feedback from successful arms-length events held in Brussels in September and in Copenhagen earlier in the year. Over 600 people are also expected to attend a beer and health seminar in Lagos in November.

Important learning from these events, and future events elsewhere, is the need to ensure that academics and scientists themselves are delivering the key messages from their research and not the industry itself. Also, and perhaps unsurprisingly, securing positive media coverage means that “new” research is most appealing to journalists attending. Access to, and coordination and translation of, the latest research is vital as is securing funding through bodies such as ERAB the European Foundation for Alcohol Research.

On the flip side to the positive research on beer and wellbeing, the so called “best buys” (increasing taxation, advertising bans, and restricting availability) continue to be strongly pushed at a global, regional and national level as THE most effective way to tackle the harmful use of alcohol.

Of course, such population-based approaches can disproportionately affect responsible drinkers as well as drive informal and illicit markets. A whole session in Amsterdam was focused on “evidence-based engagement” to better understand how associations and companies across the world currently engage in this area, what the current evidence-base tells us, where are the gaps, and more needs to be done to strengthen our engagement.

Again coordination became a key theme. This work will continue with a further workshop in Geneva in February. For example, concern is such that the Brewers of Japan have now retained two scientists to review studies in this area and publish these reviews in Japanese and English on their website. In Finland, which already has a very restrictive alcohol policy, proposals have been put forward to further restrict marketing/advertising in print and social media, to no longer allow beer up to 4.7% abv to be sold outside of State monopoly outlets and also to further cut back trading hours.

Other national and regional challenges were presented and debated, with new labelling requirements being a common theme as well as national campaigns seeking to improve the reputation of the beer category in the eyes of policy makers, influencers and consumers.

The WBA provides a unique and valuable platform for the brewing industry, and after two very enjoyable years, I was sad to hand over the Chairmanship in Amsterdam although BBPA will continue to play an active role going forwards. The challenges we face remain as strong as ever and working together and learning from other markets will be key to protecting the freedom to produce and sell the best drink in the world!


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