Ireland: Irish brewers worried by new health warning considered for beer bottles worries
Tourists wooed to Ireland by the craic will soon be looking at dire cancer warnings on the beer they came to drink, its claimed, The Irish Sun reported on September 26.
New laws forcing drinks companies to issue stark cancer, liver disease and pregnancy health warnings are in the works and are currently being considered in Europe.
For Drinks Ireland beer chairman Peter Mosley, whose industry is slowly emerging from two damaging years, its another headache they could do without.
He told the Irish Sun: When people come to Ireland then they will be bombarded with this message, Irish products are potentially carcinogenic, whereas their domestic beers are not.
It doesnt really help us in any shape or form.
We do spend a lot of time and money marketing the drinks industry, the craic, the bars, large brands here spend a lot of time emphasising their heritage and place in Irish society.
People do come to Ireland to enjoy that. So it is potentially counterproductive. It will be a while before we see the full impact of that.
He also fears that by forcing label warnings on overseas producers, they might not bother with the headache and send their pallets of wine somewhere else.
Ireland stands alone on the move hailed by Alcohol Action Ireland but derided by another beer producer as daft.
Rascals brewery in Dublin only opened in 2014 but has exploded in popularity, building on its success in its new Inchicore base where according to marketing chief Joe Donnelly very traditional working class pubs have embraced them.
However he too is annoyed at labelling laws which are still a number of years away, adding: Well soon have cancer warnings on labels, but it wont apply for export.
This highlights how daft it is, the cancerous drinks we serve here in Ireland and the non-cancerous drinks we send overseas. Its just stupid and doesnt make sense.
Hes no fan of the Public Health Alcohol Act which also includes the likes of Minimum Unit Pricing on alcohol and the new partitioning of booze aisles in supermarkets.
Based in part on similar moves in Scotland, a report in British Medical Journal Open in July suggested MUP may not be working as hoped for those most at risk or younger drinkers.
A separate report from a Scottish addiction group revealed MUP was driving some drinkers to cheaper street drugs.
Donnelly said: I disagree with a lot of it, weve seen several reports now that MUP failed in Glasgow and it will fail here.
The saloon doors segregating off licences and supermarkets and so on, I think a lot of that is misguided nanny stater stuff, its not going to work.
Im not denying that we have a lot of social problems caused by alcohol abuse in this country, Im not an eejit, but I dont agree with the methods of the current government.
Theres a very strong anti-alcohol sentiment there and I dont really understand why.
Over the past few years in spite of measures not because of, Ireland has socially addressed them anyway.
Were mid table in EU per capita consumptions.
Our teenage drinking rates are plummeting. I dont know why these laws were all needed. Are they appealing to a certain sector of the electorate? Is it grandstanding?
AAI insist however: These national labelling regulations recognise that citizens have a right to know the inherent risk from alcohol use a right currently denied.
According to the OECD, Irish people drank on average 9.5 litres of pure alcohol per person in 2021, placing us 20th in the world where European nations dominate.
Mr Mosley is also boss at the Porterhouse Brewing Company, an independent brewer which began operating in Ireland in the mid-1990s when the country was barely ready for a beer revolution, opening its own bar in Dublins Temple Bar which remains trading today.
He said: Ireland was a bit slow getting into craft beer.
The UK and US have been growing since the 80s. When we started out here the amount of scepticism was tremendous.
People generally felt it was a flash in the pan and some people said wed be selling Guinness within days in the bar in Parliament Street.
That never happened, and there are now more than 70 independents producing hundreds of variations of beers and stouts, that according to Mr Donnelly is not just the realm of geeks or nerds or pretentious types.
But with just two per cent of the beer market, the smaller players are dwarfed by the multinational giants including Diageo which produces Guinness and Heineken.
While the craft beer demand is growing, Ireland remains fixated on brands - drinkers still much more likely to order a Guinness than a stout unlike in the UK where according to Mr Mosley its still a pint of bitter.
Joe says: Its really difficult to convince someone to switch from Guinness to Heineken never mind to an IPA or a locally brewed stout.
Its also difficult for the smaller players to go up against the big boys who often have the majority of taps in pubs sewn up.
Joe said: Getting product on tap is difficult. Getting it on tap is one thing, keeping it there is another.
You might convince a publican to take on one of your beers, heres our best seller and hell say right give me one tap. You could come in a month later and hell say ah, it didnt really sell that well. What do you say? You know its a good beer, its a tough one.
He added: There are elements of (tap blocking by the giants) but you have to deal with that.
You might walk in and the publican will say look this unnamed large brewery came in and said well give you some new patio furniture or awning or extra kegs and there you go.
But, I say, thats the playing field as it is. Its not going to change so rather than complain about it were going to have to work around it and see how you can compete.
Peter, who represents the major brewers as well as the larger independent producers as chair of DI, says getting beer into pubs is about knocking on doors and hoping to find some space.
He added: Anecdotally the feeling is its harder nowadays to get lines into bars.
The brewing industry didnt really get any State support in the way hospitality did during lockdown, we found it very challenging.
The large brewers were very good in supporting publicans, but that might be at a cost. Then they want their pound of flesh.
Which we cant begrudge. A lot of small brewers tend to get very upset but it is just business.
If we could, we probably would as well. But it does potentially limit the availability of local independent brewers.
We feel the publicans are pressured or encouraged to not stock or not have quite the range they might have done.
Challenges are many including the second highest excise rates for beer in Europe, the feeling that the post-work pints culture may be fading out, the spiralling costs of producing beers and even the battle for space on retailers shelves.
But Ireland is slowly moving towards alternatives to black or gold and the producers see plenty of hope for the future as tastes change.
Donnelly said: Theres always been an absolute belief that together united as a sector we have a far better chance of gaining market share, taking on the conglomerates and surviving than if we are competing with each other.
We look out for each other, help each other, we support each others brewing and beers.
He added: The USA are currently aiming for 20 per cent market share for craft beer over the next few years.
Their market is so much more mature and evolved than ours. Barring some sort of major catastrophe we can only go up by our collective efforts and eat into that share.
In the US market, Bud is iconic, yet craft beer is now making a serious claim for 20 per cent, so it shows what can be done and its an exciting proposition.
Peter insists: Peoples drinking habits have changed, they are more open to the idea of craft beer, espousing various IPAs they may not have done before.
Its just patience. Were selling more beer now, not sure well get back to pre-pandemic levels, but we are seeing a lot more beer moving, increasingly those volumes are new or contemporary styles.
People have travelled the world, theyve seen that beer doesnt have to be black or gold, it can be sour or sweet, aromatic with hops, fruit flavoured. Its still beer and satisfying.
Theres a beer for everybody, you just have to find it.
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