My hopes for 2013: Bibendum's Michael Saunders on standing up for ourselves

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2012 is not a year many drinks businesses will look back on fondly. The economy stalled again, the expected Olympics boost never materialised, several very good companies failed to survive and the government continues to threaten us with restrictive legislation.

 

Add in the effect of small harvests across Europe and rising commodity prices and margins look set to be squeezed even further in 2013. Every business in our industry will have to look very hard at how it operates next year to maximise profits.

 

Despite this less than rosy outlook, there is a lot we can and should be proud of. The alcohol industry employs two million people in the UK, with a further 2.4 million employed in hospitality. We contribute £37bn to the economy with £16bn going directly to No.11. Our education work with regards responsible drinking is having a positive effect as overall alcohol consumption levels are falling.

 

In short, we are a responsible, dynamic industry that provides much needed jobs - especially to younger people - that more than pays its way in taxes. This is a very different picture to the one painted by the health lobby and government ministers.

 

The spectre of minimum pricing and a ban on multi-buy purchases should worry us all. Just because the proposed levels will not impact greatly on premium wine (the duty escalator has already seen to that) does not mean we should idly stand by. It may be 45p or 50p per unit now, but it could be two or three times that within a few short years.

 

We need to be strong in the face of these ideas and make a much stronger case for self-regulation and a focus on education. The ideal scenario for all concerned is to help consumers understand the future lies in drinking less but better. Less because this will negate the negative impact alcohol abuse has on individuals and wider society, better because that is where excellence (and more profit) lie.

 

No-one else is going to do this for us. We need to make our case loudly and clearly to protect our industry and our future growth.

 

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