Is your Distillery as Transparent as your Vodka?

22/03/2019 From ingredients to packaging, a brand needs to be transparent in order to have loyal customers and brand value.

Something translucent or something transparent? What would you rather see out of? That’s right, transparent. Similarly, when a consumer is buying something, they like to see full transparency in the product. The food industry has started labelling everything in a detailed way for the customer to receive full disclosure on what they’re purchasing. Likewise, the beauty industry has also started giving clear cut breakdowns on how products are made, tested etc. The question is, where does the spirit industry lie on this spectrum? As a distillery, are you trying your best to create less waste, use less water? Or are you still living in the days where protecting our surroundings meant nothing?

With the world progressing faster than expected, consumers have become very savvy and everything they need to know is just a few clicks away. New trends such as veganism, keto, opting for an eco-friendly environment, no waste challenges etc. sprout up on a daily basis and modern customers like to know what’s happening backstage.

Transparency in business is so important, especially while making spirits, or alcohol production of any kind. This is because not everyone is well versed in the distilling language and for a distillery to have some sort of credibility with both consumers and buyers, it’s important to offer a certain amount of transparency to earn their trust. The spirits may look clear, but everything else in the industry seems typically opaque to a customer. What is the production process? What is being used in distilling spirits? How much waste is being created? Is what is being marketed really accurate? These are the questions that create a block in the consumer’s mind and over time it’s going to keep increasing due to the lack of transparency distilleries have with the public.

Transparency in ingredients is something that the spirit industry is highly lacking. In 2017, the European Commission created a report that asked alcoholic drink producers to create ingredients-based labels for bottles. While some distilleries are already giving a certain amount of transparency, consumers and officials believe it isn’t enough. It’s the same thing as if you’re buying gluten-free bread you would check the ingredients to make sure there isn’t any sort of gluten in it; so why should spirits be any different.

One of the most controversial examples is vodka. Vodka has always been one of the most confusing products for a consumer in terms of both marketing and production. This is because vodka has always been marketed at a very unattainable standard. There are brands who have marketed vodka by pouring it over naked bodies, some claim that it naturally increases libido, some brands even claim it has anti-ageing properties with activated collagen and many others as such. Consumers are not just confused and questionable about marketing, but about production as well. Some brands claim their spirit is distilled only once, some claim twice, some thrice and so on; so, consumer confusion is not a shock. James Chase, global brand ambassador for potato-based spirits producer Chase Distillery stated “We do so many tastings and consumers will often say, ‘isn’t all vodka made from potatoes?’ That’s crazy” (Thespiritsbusiness.com, 2017). Some brands might not want consumers to know what actually goes in their spirits, therefore such marketing, causing lack of transparency.

With sustainable living taking over the planet, packaging of spirits has also raised eyebrows. The concept of packaging is very apparent to almost everyone, and as is the waste that packaging creates. While packaging spirits, there’s a high amount of glass, cardboard, paper etc. wastage. What is actually raising doubts is if distilleries are working towards creating as minimal waste as possible, and is the waste being recycled? One way of implementing is progressing packaging technology and making the glass bottles of a lighter weight, which leads to less usage and wastage of glass. Sadly, this can’t be implemented in the traditional bottle of gin as the boxier shape requires a heavier glass. However, for bottles with the non-traditional boxy shape such as vodka, tequila etc., there are large opportunities to use lighter weight glass.

Secondary packaging is also one that raises a lot of questions. When spirits are packaged into the cardboard boxes and stretchy materials to be shipped, how much waste is created? And is this waste recycled? Distilleries don’t put out this kind of information, whether it’s about primary packaging or secondary. The consumers are not able to figure out what is being done with the excess waste. Your distillery might be recycling and creating minimal waste, but if it isn’t put out in a way to reach the consumer, then there’s no transparency at all.

Everyone knows that a base ingredient for making spirits is water. With eco-friendly living being promoted worldwide, distilleries need to be more open and informative about how much water they’re using, how much water is being wasted and what are the measures that are being taken to reduce both the usage and wastage of water.

The industry of brews has an upper hand as they’ve already implemented a good amount of transparency in terms of nutrition and ingredients on their products. Some breweries have also started implementing the use of Boom Algae, which collects the waste and then it’s reused to create a renewable energy source. The process of cavitation is also being used by breweries to cancel out some processes during brewing, creating less usage of water, electricity, raw materials etc. and the beer creators are very vocal about this. Some breweries are so transparent that they go ahead and take their process of production to social media, showing consumers and buyers how their beers are being brewed, what is happening to the waste etc.

Not only the technicals of production but also the environment of production is occasionally questioned. Are spirits being made in a clean place? Are the machines taken care of properly? Etc. No facts are provided by distilleries regarding all these questions. Without the questions being answered, satisfaction isn’t going to be achieved by both consumers and buyers. Buyers expect and deserve a 100% transparency and so do consumers; especially in today’s times where it takes just one bad review or one less sale to make or break a business.

If the brewing world can come to a point where this technology is helping the environment and also creating transparency for consumers, why is the spirit industry lagging behind? What is going in the production of spirits that can’t be shared with both consumers and sometimes buyers as well? Why is the spirit industry always kept under wraps and why is there a lack of transparency? Is it because safety measures and high technology isn’t being used in distilleries? Or do spirit makers just don’t have the time to take an extra step towards the increment of tangible transparency in the industry?

Transparency in business is so important as we’ve already established, it’s now time to put your distillery on the transparency spectrum. There are loads of ways transparency can be offered by distilleries. Some of them being by creating labels on bottles providing nutrition and ingredient information, creating social media posts and stories about spirits being both produced and packaged and the environment in which these are done and opening up about the sustainable technology being used in production, or even the ideas of possible sustainability being created in the near future. This would give satisfaction to the consumer, and possibly the buyer as well, increasing the credibility of your distillery and the spirit industry in general.

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