How far have we come from the days when something ‘local’ was considered unfashionable in a world of international brand icons? A long way, it appears, from ‘dodgy’ to ‘delightful’. Now, Irish food & drink manufacturers seem synonymous with quality. In fact consumers now seek out domestic provenance – if not local provenance – when purchasing a drink at the bar, a sign that they associate Irish-made gins, beers and whiskeys with premium quality. This is the downstream result of innovation and drinks manufacturers’ attention to quality using global criteria. Such an enlightened consumer attitude helps import substitution, increasing the potential for jobs. All this is clarified in detail in the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland’s report, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Drinks Industry. Should a small supplier get his product to market here it must be considered something of a minor miracle against all the odds, both competitive and government-induced. For the presence of that Irish drink on the backbar has more significance than its mere bragging rights. As the report points out, for our export drive, the product must be seen by our visitors (and prospective purchasers when back home) to be drunk here at the product’s ‘home’. “Exports of drinks do not bear the burden of high Irish excise levels and it might be argued that export performance would be unrelated to Irish excise levels,” states the report, “However, drinks enterprises which export also supply the domestic market which does carry the high excise burden….. In most cases, a strong domestic market position is needed to support their export diversification”. In other words the product needs to be seen in pubs and off-licences here. Being so dependent on income from alcohol, it’s thought unlikely that the government might lower excise, but lowering tax could actually boost government coffers. UK figures indicate that a freeze in duty in the November budget brought the Treasury 2% more between December and April this year. Apart from aiding our export drive, that alone should encourage our government to ease up on alcohol in the next Budget.
How far have we come from the days when something ‘local’ was considered unfashionable in a world of international brand icons?