The impact of Pernod Ricard pledges for UK pubs

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Common ground: Vanessa Wright (left) says engaging with younger consumers is possible via ethically and environmentally focused companies
Common ground: Vanessa Wright (left) says engaging with younger consumers is possible via ethically and environmentally focused companies
Pernod Ricard’s Vanessa Wright discussed what impact Pernod’s 2030 Sustainability and Responsibility roadmap can have in the UK on-trade.

As reported by The Morning Advertiser​, drinks giant Pernod Ricard has revealed an eight-point sustainability and responsibility plan​ to tackle pressing issues such as the environment, gender equality and alcohol abuse across its affiliates in 86 countries.

The company behind Absolut vodka, Jameson Irish whiskey and Martell cognac set out an ambitious raft of resolutions committing to gender equality, responsible drinking and more environmentally practices both behind the bar and in its promotional and packaging material.

Speaking at the roadmap’s launch at the Martell Distillery in Cognac, west France, Pernod Ricard vice-president global sustainability and responsibility Vanessa Wright explained what impact the company’s plans could have in the UK on-trade.

Provenance enhancing consumer experience

With brand ethics and the journey behind how a drink reached their glass of increasing importance to consumers, Wright believes that Pernod’s commitment to nurturing terroir and regenerative agriculture products can create stories that will resonate with drinkers.

“We know that consumers are increasingly interested,” Wright explained. “We’ve seen the growth in craft – you only have to look at the gin sector to see what’s happened there and the increasing interest in provenance. It’s provenance but it’s also transparency and – from a people perspective as well – understanding who’s been involved in making that product. I think that trend will only continue.

“We have some projects in place that are directly answering to that around brands like Kahlua – we’ve started to work with a coffee community in Mexico, we’re working closely with 80 families so that we can share knowledge and education around what we know about the production of crops. When that’s fully scaled up that’ll be more like 500 families. That will give really strong, 100% sustainable, product and clear visibility to the consumer around that.

“We probably haven’t talked enough about the things that we’re doing. Absolut is almost completely circular as a brand – it was one of the first carbon-neutral distilleries in the world, it’s been involved in social issues – it had a specific bottle created in 1981 for the LGBTQ+ community. Everything it sources is from very close to the distillery. They even use the stillage that’s left at the end for the pigs and cows.”

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Green pledges at point of sale

The pub trade’s war on plastic straws has gained enormous momentum in the past 12 months. As part of its roadmap, Pernod has promised to ban all promotional items and product packaging that weren’t bio-based, or couldn’t be recycled, composted or reused by 2025, and training 10,000 bartenders to eliminate single-use plastics from their bar by 2030.

“We worked very early with plastic straws – just when I started this role in January 2018 – immediately we banned plastic straws. The EU plans to ban them by 2021, but I think next will be cups, knives and forks, but we want to go one step further – ice buckets as well – all those point-of-sale materials that are used at events, in consumer competitions, all those things we want to challenge across all our affiliates.”

However, amid soaring day-to-day costs, Wright explains that sustainable products don’t have to cost operators the earth.

“For bar owners, I’m sure they’ll be much happier to have things that have a longer life, that they can keep using, and will have some resilience to them. I think this world of everything disposable is not what they want for the future now.”

Pernod Ricard partner Trash Tiki, which offers tips and tricks via Green Hustle platform created in partnership with Absolut as well as a platform to share anti-waste cocktail recipes and advice on reusing ingredients, is helping the drinks giant stick to its bar staff training target while helping operators reduce costs.

Helping grow low and no trend

Pernod Ricard has also pledged that by 2030 its Responsible Party programme, run in partnership with student organisation Erasmus (EuRopean Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) to educate young adults around responsible drinking, will have reached 1m people.

“Particularly in the UK, we do most things as an industry because we recognise that it’s really important to act as one body,” Wright explains. “So things like Responsible Party are us going above and beyond that in making sure that we’re addressing more issues. Within that context it’s a tricky one because consumers don’t want to be preached to and told what to do.

“In India, they do a lifestyle project called ‘Eat, drink, hydrate’. It’s almost like nudging so they’re saying to the consumer, ‘drink – but make sure to eat, make sure you hydrate’ and the trade is loving that because it’s encouraging people to eat more while they’re out. It’s a whole lifestyle piece.”

The emphasis on responsible drinking is also something Pernod Ricard is looking into as part of a wider strategy to help bar operators expand their non-alcoholic drinks offers.

“In the UK, we already have a venture with Seeders. Consumers are increasingly looking for healthier options, non-alcoholic options, so it’s definitely something we’re exploring.”

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The next generation 

“I think the UK accelerated very quickly after the Blue Planet​ programmes with David Attenborough,” Wright adds. “Barriers are probably just around mindset and a perspective that they’ve always done things a certain way. That’s why we want to work with bartenders to really help rethink how we do things for the future because it’s the time for things to change.”

She adds that modern consumers and Generation Z demand green and ethical credentials from any business they engage with, with a sweeping change in mindset seeing businesses that don’t deliver losing customers.

“It’s that generation, they won’t join companies that aren’t going beyond making a profit.

“We can really help to make a difference – we’re a big global business that is present in 86 countries. We can have relationships with bartenders and our customers and we can really help to drive that change.”

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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