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October 31, 2019
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When a consumer makes a purchase, they like to receive full transparency regarding the product. The food industry is putting detailed labels on all goods to provide the customer with full clarity about them. The beauty industry has also begun giving clear cut breakdowns on how their products are made and tested. Where does the spirits industry lie on the transparency spectrum? As a distillery, are you providing your customers with full transparency on your product?
With the world progressing rapidly, consumers are becoming tech-savvy and everything they need to know is just a few clicks away. With new lifestyle trends sprouting up daily, such as veganism, keto, eco-friendly environment etc. consumers have shown interest in what the backend of things.
Not everyone is well-versed in the distilling language. So, as a business, it's key to provide your consumers and buyers with full clarity about the product to earn their trust. There is a deep sense of opacity in the consumer's mind when it comes to the spirits industry.
Transparency in ingredients is something that the spirits 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 as an unattainable standard. There are brands that market vodka by sexualising it. Some have even claimed that their vodka has anti-ageing properties with activated collagen. Consumers are not just confused and questionable about marketing, but about production as well. Some brands claim their spirit is distilled only once, some say 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). Brands might not want consumers to know what goes in their products since, in this day and age, consumers tend to look at everything with a judgmental eye. Due to this, spirit brands tend to be less transparent with their audience.
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.
With sustainable living taking over, the packaging of spirits is also raising eyebrows. The concept of packaging is very apparent to everyone, as is the waste that packaging creates. While packaging spirits, there’s a high amount of glass, cardboard, and paper wastage. Distilleries and their implementation of recycling and reducing waste are being questioned. One way of implementing the low waste trend is by 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 boxier shaped bottles require a heavier glass. However, for bottles with the non-traditional boxy shape such as vodka and tequila, there are large opportunities to use lighter weight glass.
Secondary packaging is also a factor that raises a lot of questions. When spirits are packaged into 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 or secondary packaging. 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.
The beer industry has an upper hand as they’ve already executed a high amount of transparency in terms of nutrition and ingredients to their products. Some breweries have also started implementing the use of Boom Algae, which collects the waste and is reused to create a renewable energy source. Breweries are also using 'cavitation' to cancel out some processes during brewing, creating less usage of water, electricity, raw materials etc. and 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 and how sustainability is being applied.
Along with the process of production and marketing, the environment in which spirits are produced is also being questioned. Are spirits being made in a clean place? Are the machines being taken care of properly? No facts are provided by distilleries regarding all these questions. Without the questions being answered, both consumers and buyers are bound to remain unsatisfactory. 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 buyers? Why is the spirit industry always kept under wraps and why is there a lack of transparency? Is it because safety measures aren't being taken 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 key to build a brand. 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 these ways are:
1. Providing ingredient and nutrition information on labels
2. Showing the process of production on social media.
3. Opening up about sustainable technology being used in the distillery.
4. Promoting future plans for transparency and sustainable production.
This would give satisfaction to the consumer and buyer, increasing the credibility of your distillery and the spirits industry in general.