True Taste for Welsh Drinks?

A change from my planned look at the state of each category in the Welsh drinks industry as last week was the awards ceremony for Wales The True Taste.

Gold and Silver in the Beer, Cider and Perry (under 10% abv) category went to Hurns Brewing of Swansea, better known maybe as Tomos Watkin for their Blodwens Beer and Premier Ale respectively. Bronze went to Coles Family Brewery for their Carmarthen Gold.

In the Wine, Spirits and other alcohol (over 10% abv) Condessa Liqueurs of Anglesey took gold and bronze with their Sloe Gin and Praline Welsh Cream Liqueur. Silver went to Penderyn Distillery for their Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whisky.

Also worthy of note are Celt Experience for their silver in the export category.

Hearty congratulations to all!

The True Taste has certainly done wonders for the profile and quality of Welsh food, but is True Taste the best stage for Welsh drinks?

Hmm, I’m not sure.

I remain to be convinced that it is the best vehicle to promote Welsh drinks as True Taste is too associated with food. Proof of this is the fact that only two categories cover the whole of the drinks industry and they are dwarfed by those for every category imaginable of food.

If further illustration was needed that the awards do not adequately promote the Welsh drinks industry, witness the fact that not one cider, perry or wine gained any kind of award this year. That’s a big part of the industry without any recognition.

This stems from the rather strange an indeed eccentric nature of the drinks categories, delimited as they are by alcoholic content – almost the equivalent of categorising food by calorific content, which is naturally absurd. The fact that it is possible to brew a beer of over 10% and make a wine below 10% shows the questionableness of this method of categorisation.

I suspect that most people, if asked, would distinguish drinks based on their type – beer, cider, wine, spirits, liqueurs etc.

To give drinks their rightful place in the awards would require many more categories making the awards more unwieldy than they already are.

Two options I think. Simplify the awards so that each category has an overall champion or better ‘category ambassador’. That would mean one for drinks, one for dairy, one for meat etc. and then have smaller category ceremonies that lead up to the big night.

The other option would be to separate drinks out from True Taste to have their own dedicated awards and branding. This would both build and enable a distinct Welsh drinks identity, brandmark, and promotion based on the brand values suggested in my previous blog entry.

Although the first option has its attractions, I think I would favour the latter as it would give Welsh drinks equal footing with food, not playing second fiddle as they currently do. It would help create a strong identity for the drinks sector in Wales and could also help companies with their route to market as having its own awards makes other things possible like awards for best shops, pubs etc. that are best at promoting Welsh drinks. This would encourage others to follow and Welsh drinks companies would be the beneficiaries.

The time has come for the Welsh Government to bring Welsh drinks out of the supporting cast and into the limelight in its own right. We have great products, but, as I’ve said before, the size of most companies means a little help is needed for the industry to realise its true potential and further raise the image of Wales as the home of excellent food and drink of the highest quality. I don’t think being a bit part of an award and brand dominated by food will achieve this.

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