Welsh Drinks – the state of the industry

The Welsh drinks industry has a lot to offer, an amazing amount to offer if you consider the size of Wales – beer, cider, perry, wine, spirits and liqueurs.

 A key characteristic of the drinks industry in Wales is that there are no really big producers (ignoring the AB Inbev beer factory in Magor, South East Wales). SA Brain is our biggest producer but they’re clearly no multinational. That’s not to say multinationals don’t have a presence in the pubs, restaurants and shops, of course they do, where don’t they?

 Does size matter, should we be looking to entice a major company to open a beer factory in Wales?

 Well, being home to, relatively speaking, small producers provides Wales with a coherent image with which to ‘sell’ its drinks industry, an image that each producer could tap into and an image very few other countries possess.

If you wanted to build a Welsh drinks brand, the fact that you have a lot of small producers creates a lot of strong ‘brand values’.

Small-scale, craft, artisan, quality, passion

 This links well with Wales recently being seen as a top gastro-tourism destination in the Guardian and the drinks industry should really be part of this. Historically the promotion of Welsh food has ignored Welsh drink. This is finally starting to change thanks to Welsh Government Deputy Minister Alun Davies AM.

However, every positive also has a negative side and being small also means that it can be difficult to achieve a critical mass. The vast majority of producers in Wales are very small and this can mean that they have little time for anything beyond production.

Will the Welsh Government put the same effort into Welsh drinks and get them to the same level of recognition that it has done for Welsh food? Hopefully.

 In the next few blog entries I’ll be giving my take on each sector of the Welsh drinks industry starting with our biggest category, beer.

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