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Tackling excise fraud...a big issue

On 19/09/13 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

Ever wondered how much illicit alcohol and tobacco is seized by the authorities and what they are doing about it? Well the answer is a lot on both counts as highlighted by the first quarterly bulletins on tobacco and alcohol smuggling being published by HMRC as part of a new communications exercise on the issue.

Between April and June, 1.8 million litres of beer, 0.5 million litres of wine and over 90,000 litres of spirits were seized with a combined revenue value of £4.6 million (£1.8million for beer, £1.6million for wine and £1.1million for spirits). These are big numbers and clearly the legitimate industry has a key role to play in helping HMRC reduce the level of fraud and the opportunities for fraud. Indeed the current Government consultation on the next steps to tackle fraud includes a number of actions proposed by the BBPA alongside proposals for a registration scheme for wholesalers and a new due-diligence requirement for producers and traders in duty-unpaid goods.

However it is the figures for tobacco that are truly astounding. In the last quarter alone, over 400 million cigarettes and 103 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco were seized with a revenue value of £137 million. This is despite a huge focus on this area for a number of years and measures such as fiscal marks and supply-chain legislation being in place for a number of years.

For both alcohol and tobacco a major incentive for fraud is the very high excise duty rates in the UK, particularly within a single European market with little by way of border controls. Tax harmonisation has not happened, the EU has expanded and disparities with our nearest European neighbours remain very significant and in many instances have grown.

Clearly HMRC has a hugely difficult job and, like us, I am sure many officers would have been happy with the Chancellor’s decision to cut beer duty in March and finally start to erode fraudsters’ profit margins.

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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Travels in September

On 16/09/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I am currently reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey, which is particularly appropriate given this month’s travel-heavy schedule and my recent holiday in the Cevennes! I am of course very thankful that methods have improved somewhat – as I will be taking the usual plane or train as opposed to donkey… September brings regional meetings, party conferences and the Brewers of Europe gathering in Croatia. So here are a few words on each…

Last week I attended the SBPA meeting in Edinburgh where, among other things, we watched a presentation about the partnership with Jobcentre Plus in Scotland and our continuing work with VisitScotland to promote beer and pubs as a part of the economically significant Scottish hospitality industry.

Towards the end of the week I headed to Manchester for the North West BBPA meeting and a farewell lunch for Lee Le Clercq. Apparently his Grandfather, Jean Baptiste Le Clercq, left the Marne and became apprenticed as a Cooper at the Mortlake brewery - what a small world. Whilst tidying up before retirement Lee came across a wonderful book written by a former secretary to the NW Association entitled A History of the Brewers Central Association, which looks back to its formation in 1869, some 35 years before the Brewers Society was formed in London! We have carefully stored the book away in our BBPA library. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose! In 1875 they achieved a remission of Brewers Licence Duty from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for over £60,000! Some 138 years later.....

So now to Party conferences - first Glasgow, for the Liberal Democrats, then Brighton, for Labour, and Manchester, for the Conservatives. These will provide opportunities to meet MPs and their advisors in less formal surroundings to discuss issues of interest and how we can work together. At each one the Parliamentary Beer Group hosts a reception and I also attend a range of fringe meetings with many of our partners such as Drinkaware.

As a mid conference break I will be heading down to Acton Trussell for our Regional Key Issues Forum. If you have not yet booked your place for the 25th September there is still time. An important aspect of the day will be the involvement of Europe’s leading provider of energy services, Cofely GDF Suez. This is not just about changing light bulbs in pubs and I would encourage you to book in your relevant production managers for the Forum, via Richard Matthews.

Brewers of Europe are to meet in Dubrovnik, Croatia, later this month. This will be an opportunity to assess the study undertaken in collaboration with Ernst & Young about the links between brewing and the on-trade and the ongoing economic study of the value of brewing. This is sure to inspire discussion as to how we influence the US/EU trade talks and change the tariffs for imports and exports for beer between the US and the EU.

I will be sure to keep you updated on the outcomes of the month’s many voyages…

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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The real role of beer sponsorship

On 13/09/13 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

This week we have been inundated with news stories based on research from Newcastle University that claims that football fans see around two references to alcoholic drinks per minute when watching televised football.

The research team, from their public health department, also argue that that millions of children are exposed to this advertising making them more likely to take up drinking. The report which analysed six matches shown on BBC, ITV and Sky calls for tighter Government restrictions on alcohol sponsorship of sports and advertising during televised football.

Quite apart from the fact that the balance of evidence does not support a significant link between alcohol advertising exposure and consumption and the fact that key trends are all going in the right direction – total alcohol consumption down 12% since 2004, percentage of 11-15 years olds trying alcohol down 25% in the last decade, age of first drink now higher – this entirely ignores the huge importance of sports sponsorship and the unique role that the alcohol industry plays.

Income from sponsorship plays a vital role in supporting sporting activity at all levels. As the Government looks at how to make the Olympic legacy of encouraging greater participation in sport and to help develop the elite medal winners of the future a reality this support has never been more important.

A 2011 report by the Brewers of Europe puts the total financial contribution of Europe’s Brewers to sponsorship and community support at around €900 million.T his substantial figure is important in its own right in supporting participation in sports of all kinds and fostering emerging talent. The involvement goes far beyond the purely financial; to the core feature of promoting social responsibility in their sponsorship agreements ranging from development of grassroots sport to the active promotion of responsible consumption and retailing. This extra activity would be much less likely if the sponsorship was from another sector.

This includes the display of the Drinkaware logo alongside company branding driving traffic to the website, displaying customer unit awareness information, ensuring the availability of bottled water at matches and rigorous staff training regimes that prevent underage or irresponsible selling. All of these are tangible actions which brewers are committed to through their sports sponsorship and have clear benefits for fans.

At the FA cup semi-final weekend in 2012 traffic to the Drinkaware website was up 30% on the previous weekend due to the exposure given to it by the brand sponsor Budweiser. So a direct result of this sponsorship was a higher number of people accessing information on responsible drinking.

Advertising and sponsorship are already effectively governed by a comprehensive system of self-regulation through the Portman Group Code on packaging and marketing and the ASA Codes on broadcast and non-broadcast advertising which ensure that advertising is appropriately targeted and does not encourage irresponsible associations or content. Additionally, all broadcast alcohol advertisements are pre-approved before being aired.

Reports of this nature should be less quick to call for more regulation and should instead look at the real picture – the crucial importance of the funding from alcohol sport sponsors and the key role they play in promoting responsibility.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


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Family ties

On 11/09/13 by David Wilson (Director of Public Affairs)

I had the great pleasure of visiting the Arkell’s Brewery in Swindon last weekend for an open day and beer festival to celebrate their 170th anniversary. I have always had a strong affinity with Arkell’s having been born and bred in Swindon myself – in fact my Junior School was downwind of the brewery stack and family and friends have worked there throughout my life.

In a packed brewery yard, complete with wonderful vintage cars, steam engines and motorbikes, I was delighted to bump in to a former school friend, Robert Mercer – we were in the school recorder group together! Robert has been brewing at Arkell’s since we left school 32 years ago – like his father and older brother before him.

The festival was a brilliant showcase of beers from pretty much all of Britain’s family brewers and demonstrated the collaboration and mutual support that characterises our industry. I particularly enjoyed the new Arkell’s UK Cascade single hop beer, one of a new exciting range introduced by new Head Brewer, Alex Arkell.

I would go as far to say that Arkell’s are loved in the town and the villages around Swindon. They are the oldest surviving business in the town – a living embodiment of the British love for beer and pubs and of a family business managed for the long-term with a strong commitment to their workforce and the community.

Some would call it old-fashioned, but this is one way of living and working I hope never goes out of fashion. As the next generation of Arkells help to shape the beer and the pubs to cater for modern tastes I hope the company can look forward to many years of future success.

David Wilson
Director of Public Affairs


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Are hops the new grapes?

On 06/09/13 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)

Wednesday felt more like a sunny September morning on a Californian vineyard, as 400 invitees from across the brewing industry found themselves in the beautiful surroundings of Stocks Farm in Worcestershire for the 2013 Charles Farm hop harvest open day.

The farm is home to Ali and Richard Capper and over 100 acres of hops that include several different hedgerow and tall hop varieties, all proudly displayed for the visiting masses! The Cappers have been growing hops at Stocks Farm for many years but the farm suffered from wilt in the 1980s, with the result that all the hops grown there must have some tolerance or resistance.

But it isn't just the established varieties that visitors stumble across whilst they amble around this huge farm. Hidden amongst the Goldings, Target, Sovereign and First Gold you'll also find Endeavour, the first new hedgerow variety that was developed by Peter Derby at Wye Hops Ltd.

New varieties currently being trialled also include the mysterious Jester. Whereas hop flowers used for brewing come from the female hop plant, Jester is a hop that has grown with both female and male elements in a single plant. This is the first year that Jester has been grown at Stocks Farm. The variety has produced some beautiful, extended cones which apparently produce a zesty, citrus pineapple character in beer.

Another hop to spot on the leisurely, self-guided tour around the farm is the Bramling Cross. A fantastic, established British Hop variety that is enjoying renewed interest. It is a sensitive plant though, and must be handled with care, with each bine stemming from hand-planted stock. Holes must be dug, lined with manure, watered and only then can the plants be added. It’s then a matter of waiting. If the Bramling Cross isn't planted correctly its delicate root structure won't form properly and the crop won't fully develop.

So what's the outlook for the UK hop harvest this year? As Ali noted, we are only three days into the 2013 harvest so there is all to play for. However, the early summer was not ideal and recent heat has led to the flowers of some varieties being slow to fully develop. However, we still look to have a better crop than in some areas of Europe.

Greater use and awareness of British hops will help to protect the industry. Our unique maritime climate makes for perfect conditions for the cultivation of both new hops and existing varieties. Many of the hops grown in other countries owe their heritage to British legacy hops - we have some of the world’s best aroma and flavour hops growing right here in our home soil.

The British Hop Association would love to see UK brewers advertise their use of British hops and has developed logos for this purpose. These can be downloaded from the BHA website. Our challenge for the next year though is for UK brewers to shout about their use of British hops and name the varieties they use to educate and enthuse consumers. And why not. So come on, let’s hop to it!

Steve Livens
Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain


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National Pubwatch website - a key tool for licensees

On 04/09/13 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

Pubwatches are the original partnership schemes specifically aimed at pub licensees – low cost, easy to set up and controlled by licensees and managers themselves. Not only are they successful in creating a safe drinking environment in an area’s licensed premises through close working with the authorities, banning troublemakers and sharing good practice, they often form the initial foundation for developing further partnership working in the future such as Best Bar None schemes.

In the light of increasing numbers of councils seemingly shunning effective and established partnership schemes by consulting on unfair and unproven policies such as late night levies and EMROs, it is more vital than ever that the voice of individual pubwatches are heard, especially given the results of the recent Leeds Metropolitan University report which showed that the vast majority of local authorities (76%), Police (70%) and licensees (70%) surveyed believed Pubwatch to be contributing to a safer drinking environment in local areas.

As a result, the national body supporting individual pubwatches is gaining more prominence. National Pubwatch – supporting existing pubwatches and helping pubs set up their own – provides a wealth of free guidance on their website for licensees wanting to set up their own scheme. This includes the Good Practice Guide designed to help those setting up pubwatches avoid potential legal pitfalls and provide an effective working structure. In addition the guide provides sample documents and other useful information about solutions to specific problems that a watch might have. Alongside this a range of other resources are available for free download including posters alerting customers to the fact the pub is in a Pubwatch scheme, BBPA guidance such as the managing safety risk assessment and Challenge 21, and videos showing the benefits of being in a scheme.

More recently the website has been upgraded to incorporate a Pubwatch tracker tool which shows the location of registered Pubwatches across the UK – currently standing at over 400 schemes but with many more expected to register. There is also a licensing Q&A section where licensees can put their questions to licensing experts and a new pilot initiative to aid police investigations into serious crimes affecting the pub and hospitality trade. This 'Information Wanted' section can be accessed through the website showing the very latest images of those being sought for criminal activity in licensed premises, aiding the detection of crime and again demonstrating the benefits of partnership working through pubwatches.

The BBPA has been a supporter and promoter of pubwatches and National Pubwatch for a number of years, and we urge members to promote their website to their lessees, tenants and managers – especially those new to the trade - as it contains everything they need to get a watch started or to find out if there is one already established in their area. There are many successful voluntary partnership schemes which are leading the way in the good management of public spaces, such as local Pubwatches, Best Bar None, Business Improvement Districts and Purple Flag, and should be encouraged at every opportunity.

Jim Cathcart
Policy Manager - Pub Operations


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Beer Academy guest blog from Executive Director, Simon Jackson - Educate, Enthuse, Enlighten – Let there be Beer Training

On 30/08/13

This year the Beer Academy will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Established in 2003 by a small group of passionate industry supporters, the Beer Academy sought to emulate the success of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust – an industry body widely and enthusiastically supported by all the key producers, distributors and retailers from the wine and spirits sectors who quickly recognised it and supported it as the Industry Body for trade and consumer education in those sectors.

The Beer Academy mission was (and remains) to Educate, Enlighten and Enthuse all those working in any way within the beer sector – and with a target audience of over 1 million working in in the beer and pub sector then the challenge at the outset was seen to be how all those people could be trained! The Industry was keen to support and many companies and associations came in board as Patrons. In 2007 the Beer Academy became a division of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD).

After 10 years, excellent progress has been made – but the Beer Academy Foundation Course has in the last 5 years been attended by fewer than 1500 people – and 50% of them are consumers. In total the Beer academy now trains over 1000 people per annum through its full range of courses and events – great progress – but this is only a fraction of those that are potential beer ambassadors with the public.

Let there be Beer Training

Now is the time for the sector to grasp the opportunity, take the initiative and seriously engage in training. ‘Let there be education’ is the rallying cry. Let’s support the sector by recognising that we could meet customer and consumer expectations so much more readily if we had a significant cohort of core employees that can talk and communicate knowledgeably about beer – how it is brewed, what are the raw materials, what is the role of the huge range of styles, how do beer and food menus work, what is the right glassware.

Our consumers are in some respects ahead of us – seeking out information and knowledge, but so often faced with a lack of information at the point of sale – be it B2B or at retail.

Beer is the engine of the On Trade – if ‘pub is the hub’ then ‘beer is the heart’ – and it needs to be a beating heart – pro actively proclaiming its role as the focal point of the on trade – supported by passionate, enlightened and knowledgeable people.

There is a beer for every occasion, for everyone and for every eating occasion –let’s hear it for beer and let’s hear it for beer education.
The Beer Academy offers a full educational programme for the Beer and Retail sectors -from the 90 Minute themed beer tasting events , through the one day Foundation Course and up the Beer Academy Beer Sommelier scheme.

For full details visit or contact Dan Cannas at The Beer Academy - Tel 020 7499 1156 E-Mail


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Jamie Oliver’s challenge – food for thought

On 30/08/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Jamie Oliver has ignited a lively ‘silly season’ debate with his comments about lower income families who are more willing to spend money on the largest possible television than they are on better quality food for their families.

This is not the first time that Jamie has made himself unpopular in some quarters by challenging lazy eating habits and calling for parents to give more thought and money to ensuring that we eat more healthily as a nation. It is easy to be cynical about the timing of his outburst – as it seems to have been timed to coincide with his new TV series. However, I for one think we should listen to his advice.

The growing interest in food which Jamie and his contemporaries have promoted, should not be seen as a luxury, only affordable when the country returns to sustained economic growth. As the pub sector has demonstrated, it is possible to eat well on a budget and we do not have to tolerate mediocrity when we eat out. Pub food has been transformed in much of Britain and a focus on fresh local ingredients or rejuvenated classic British dishes is driving pub profitability.

Where pubs come into their own is in offering consumers a range of options which cater for their differing needs and budgets. The trend in sharing dishes is not only more sociable but it also helps groups by offering great value for money. As with offering smaller serving sizes, flexibility is key to retaining a loyal customer base and attracting back customers who may have been put off in the past by less than optimal service and a more limited menu on offer.

Jamie started his illustrious hospitality career in his parents’ Essex pub. We have been working with the Hospitality Guild to develop a pub chefs campaign to encourage newly-qualified chefs to consider pubs as a career choice.

If we are to drive growth through investment in beer and pubs we will continue to create new opportunities for young people in particular to pursue a career in hospitality in a pub setting. As consumers demand more and more from their pub food experience it is vital we invest in our talent to offer the best service and better quality food for the discerning customer. Jamie’s campaign to encourage all of us to think more about the quality of the food we eat is both a challenge and an opportunity for pubs.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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The politics of beer communications

On 28/08/13 by David Wilson (Director of Public Affairs)

The appointment of former Deputy Political Editor of the Sun, Graeme Wilson (no relation), to the post of Press Secretary in Number Ten is but the latest in a series of moves to bolster communications efforts as the PM gears up for the bruising General Election campaign that will lead up to May 2015.

Having a spin doctor who speaks the language of the street and can help to define policy in tabloid terms must be good for the Government. I would argue that it is also good news for beer and pubs.

For some time we have sought to position support for beer and pubs as a significant barometer of how in-touch our politicians are with their increasingly cynical voting public. The voice of the man or woman down the pub is the voice of the majority of Britons and must be listened to.
It is no surprise to us then that the most populist of the current breed of Party Leaders, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, is often pictured with a beer in his hand in a pub. Nor that David Cameron sanctioned a photograph of himself clutching a pint of Tribute to be released during his recent Cornish sojourn. The Conservatives in particular have moved some way to demonstrate their support for our industry and MPs are now clambering for pictures with beer, in a pub or visiting a brewery in their patch.

Support from the Sun was crucial to our beer duty campaign success. Our distinctly positive tone, argued for by our Chairman Jonathan Neame and supported by the BBPA Board, fitted well with the ‘sunny-side up’ approach of the most popular red top tabloid. We framed our arguments in straightforward language that would resonate with Sun readers. With the Sun on board we worked hard to feed the machine with story ideas to maintain the momentum as Budget Day neared.

Aussie communications guru Lynton Crosby has given an edge to the Government’s communications and taught them to focus on the bread and butter issues that most concern the public. The price of your pint and a safe future for your local are among a range of quality of life issues that the British public care strongly about and the Sun, and now it would seem the Government press team, get it.

Policy will clearly still be driven by what’s best for the British economy but having the Sun in our corner will help us hugely in keeping up the pressure on the Coalition to go further to support British beer and pubs.

David Wilson
Director of Public Affairs


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