Winemakers Federation of Australia lacking bottle

Whine on wine

The latest wine industry whine is on the subject of plain packaging for alcohol products. It’s somewhat justifiable, but TKR’s patience has been stretched to the extreme, as this is an issue that has been on the boil and growing in importance for several years. The whining from the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) has been pathetic and remains a whimper.

As soon as plain packaging was made compulsory for tobacco products in 2012, TKR warned the focus would shift to alcohol. We also said wine would not be exempt. If fact, we said this long before plain packaging became law. We have also covered the wisdom of joining forces with the beer and spirits industry, as it has its own agendas, one being increased tax on wine, balanced by a reduction in tax on beer and spirits. The beer and spirits industry also has a lot more money than wine, and its voice is louder.

Anyhow, the WFA and Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) have come out squeaking about plain packaging on alcohol products.

The WFA media release said the federation was “again frustrated that calls supporting graphic health advertising about alcohol consumption are based on selective quoting of publicly unavailable ‘research’.”

Where did the “calls” come from? Have we missed a government announcement or newspaper articles advocating the use of graphic health advertising?

What we did find was a paper: Features of alcohol harm reduction advertisements that most motivate reduced drinking among adults: an advertisement response study.

The authors are Melanie A Wakefield, Emily Brennan, Kimberley Dunstone, Sarah J Durkin, Helen G Dixon, Simone Pettigrew and Michael D Slater.

Wakefield, Brennan, Dunstone, Durkin and Dixon are funded by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne.

Pettigrew comes from the school of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia.

Slater is from the School of Communication, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

It’s not a long paper, and is naughty in that it does not keep to the title. Read it again: Features of alcohol harm reduction advertisements that most motivate reduced drinking among adults: an advertisement response study.

If it is an advertisement response study, why, after the abstract, does it go into the following detail under the heading, “Background”:

“Alcohol use ranks among the top five risk factors for global disease burden, accounting for 5.5 per cent of all disability adjusted life years lost. About 70 per cent of this alcohol burden is due to long-term harms such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuropsychiatric disorders and infectious disease…”

Is this academic trickery? The deceiving we have to put up with because greedy academics are often more interested in funding and pleasing their masters than sticking to the subject matter? The answer can be found in the organisation for which most of the authors work. They pick up their pay cheques from the Cancer Council.

As for the subject matter, the results are predictable. The most graphic adverts have the greatest effect on those watching the ads. The question being: if graphic adverts were used, followed by plain packaging becoming law, would this reduce alcohol consumption?

If one takes smoking as a guide, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS):

“Rates of daily smoking have continued to drop, to 14.5 per cent (2.6 million) of adults smoking in 2014-15, compared with 16.1 per cent in 2011-12 and 22.4 per cent in 2001.”

This raises the next question: is this due to graphic advertising and plain packaging? The health and anti-smoking brigade will say yes; other factions will say no. What is ironic is that the drop in sales has been balanced by greater profits in Australia, as the tobacco companies no longer spend millions on advertising. They also have a percentage mark-up; the higher the tax, the more the margin grows.

It’s good news that smoking is on a downward trend, but so is alcohol consumption. From the same ABS report:

“In 2014-15, 17.4 per cent of adults consumed more than the recommended two standard drinks per day on average (exceeding the National Health and Medical Research Council lifetime risk guidelines), down from 19.5 per cent in 2011-12.”

To summarise:

• Smoking is down 1.6 percentage points
• Alcohol is down 2.1 percentage points

Without graphic advertising and plain packaging, alcohol consumption is falling faster that smoking.

WFA CEO Tony Battaglene said: “These ads might be lauded in the advertising world but, like most paid advertisements, they do not provide consumers with accurate, evidenced-based information.”

He did say less alcohol was being consumed, and the figures backing this came from the ABS, but did he say what those figures were? How is the WFA keeping its members informed with media releases that just whine about what is going on, without fighting back? Come on, Battaglene, get out there and get stuck in. Rouse the troops. Do something for the few remaining members you have.

As for those troops, what are you doing? Sitting on committees because you think it’s contributing to the industry? Below are the members of the various committees. Some TKR knows; others not. Some are past their prime, some full of self-interest, some so wedded to their companies that they are incapable of taking an industry perspective.

TKR has listened to arguments on what is wrong and how to right it for two decades, and the industry is still in a mess. It’s pointless talking about current success; the Australian wine industry is lucky China took a liking to its wines, otherwise many of those listed below and thousands of others would be moping around with their arse hanging out of their pants.

Stand up, be counted and get out there and fight.

WFA Small Winemakers’ Membership Committee
• David O’Leary, O’Leary Walker Wines (chair)
• John Quarisa, Quarisa Wines (NSW Wine Industry Assoc)
• James March, Barossa Grape and Wine Assoc, Heathvale Wines (SA Wine Industry Assoc)
• Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi, Ballandean Estate Wines (Queensland Wine Industry Assoc)
• Melanie Reddaway, Belvidere Winery (Dog Ridge Wine Company)
• Will Adkins, Tamar Ridge (Wines Tasmania)
• Redmond Sweeny, Snake & Herring (Wines of Western Australia)
• Rollo Crittenden, Crittenden Wines (Wine Victoria)
• Chris Pfeiffer OAM, Pfeiffer Wines
• Colin Campbell, Campbell Wines
• Corrina Wright, Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards
• Adam Morris, Bimbadgen
• Edward Swift, Printhie Wines
• Alexandra Burt, Voyager Estate (leave of absence)

Medium Winemakers’ Membership Committee
• Mitchell Taylor, Taylors Wines Pty Ltd (chair)
• Robert Hill Smith, Yalumba Wine Company
• Victoria Angove, Angove’s Family Winemakers
• Darren De Bortoli, De Bortoli Wines
• Alister Purbrick, Tahbilk Pty Ltd
• Bill Moularadellis, Kingston Estate Wines Pty Ltd
• Jeff McWilliam, McWilliams Wines Group

Large Winemakers’ Membership Committee
• Angus McPherson, Treasury Wine Estates (chair)
• Helen Strachan, Pernod Ricard Winemakers Pty Ltd
• Georgia Lennon, Accolade Wines
• Libby Nutt, Casella Family Brands

The front line

People on the front line of retailing (store staff) rarely get to voice their opinions outside company staff meetings. Within those meetings, the opinions sought are about the business: how and why targets are not being met, or hopefully exceeded.

It’s a privilege to have a selection of BWS managers who have been given permission by HQ to share their frontline experiences with TKR readers. This week we introduce Bec Polley and Alex Ch’ng, two smart young people who, I believe, from our brief contact, should go far in the industry/trade if that is the route they decide to take.

Bec runs the Banyo store in Brisbane after transferring from Woolworths. She says the job

“combined my love and interest in the liquor industry with my skills in business and management. I (briefly) studied law and business at university before deciding that I wanted to work my way up and I wanted an understanding of all facets and levels of retail liquor.”

On the other side of the country, Alex has been working at the Alfred Cove store in Perth since May 2015. He admits to knowing nothing about the world of liquor when he started, but since then his interest has deepened. The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) level 2 certificate is hanging on the wall and he’s studying for the level 3 certificate.

Bec is the current holder of the Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) Young Liquor Retailer of the Year Award. In her acceptance speech she thanked ASLA for

“the opportunity to show how passionate I am about our industry. It is such an amazing award for the younger generation to see that there is the opportunity to excel in retail, and particularly in liquor, and there is so much that we can learn.” The award comes with a study tour to England this year.

Both attend tastings whenever possible and both have an impressive thirst for knowledge, looking to take further study courses and exams when they can.

Bec has never worked vintage. However, she says if she got the chance, “I would definitely take on the opportunity with both hands!” Nor has Alex worked a vintage, but has “previously dabbled in distilling and am planning to plant some vines”.

Bec describes her Brisbane store as medium in turnover on the BWS scale, and her customers as:

“In general, dual-income working professionals or young families. We are also near an industrial estate, which sees us serve a lot of mainstream beer but then also high-end whiskeys and sparkling/Champagnes for corporate events. My average bottle price is around $15 and popular lines include Oyster Bay SB, Stoneleigh and Shaw + Smith (when I can get it!). We have a huge presence of Australian craft beer … [including] the Newstead Brewery beers alongside other major craft brewers.”

Alex on his customers:

“In terms of general sales for wine, I would say that most customers look for wines between $10-15 a bottle. Most popular varietals are shiraz and sauvignon blanc or SSB blends.
In terms of beer, craft beers remain popular, and BWS is beginning to expand the range of craft beers available.”

Not only is Alex keen on his own education, but he wants to share knowledge, believing

“education to be incredibly important for both producers and consumers. In my experience, many customers buy wines because they know the brand, region or varietal. Marlborough sauvignon blanc is well embedded into the mainstream and sales are high. Running tasting events would encourage customers to explore more broadly and discover wines that they really love.”

TKR is looking forward to future contributions from Bec, Alex and the others, whom we shall introduce another time.

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