By Geoff Percival
Jameson owner Irish Distillers has warned that proposed new legislation surrounding the selling of alcohol would put jobs, exports and the global success of Irish whiskey at risk.
The company, which is ultimately owned by French drinks giant Pernod Ricard, said the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill risks undermining an already “challenging” spirits market.
“The measures in the bill run the risk of needlessly endangering one of Ireland’s biggest export successes and damaging future innovation, job growth and economic contributions,” said outgoing Irish Distillers chairman and chief executive, Jean-Christophe Coutures.
If passed, the legislation would change the way alcohol products are sold — by way of display, pricing, marketing and labelling, which would include health warnings.
The bill has been heavily criticised as being potentially severely damaging by lobbyists and industry players.
The Carlow Brewing Company, which owns the O’Hara’s beer brand, recently complaining that mandatory cancer warnings on labels would fly in the face of the Government targeting the growing craft beer market as a major driver of growth in the overall Irish drinks sector.
“It is important to note the global success of Irish whiskey is in danger of being undermined by developments in Ireland, most notably the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill,” said Mr Coutures.
“The unintended negative consequences from the advertising measures being proposed will undermine the industry’s ability to trial innovative new products in Ireland and prove that they are export-ready.
“The labelling requirements will act as a barrier to entry for new companies and will also cause serious reputational damage to Ireland’s premium drinks products,” he said.
Mr Coutures is set to leave Irish Distillers in the summer to head up Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers Scotch whisky portfolio. He will be replaced in Dublin by Conor McQuaid.
Irish Distillers also said Jameson sales grew by 12% in the six months to the end of December. During that time, it sold more than four million cases and has double or triple digit percentage sales growth in 80 markets.
However, it said the market in Ireland is “challenging”, with volume growth outpacing value growth. That said, Jameson sales here grew by 5% and Powers sales grew 11% in the group’s first half.