Sunday, 2 February 2014

Beer, wine and cheese party

The most recent poll was inspired by Boak and Bailey’s blogpost about the uncertainty over whether Camden Hells was brewed in London or in Germany. I widened the issue to look at how important knowing the country of origin was for beer in comparison with other consumer products. The results show that this is much more important for beer, wine and cheese than anything else, with frozen meals (maybe surprising in the wake of the horsemeat scandal) and clothing bringing up the rear.

I suspect in a poll directed at a general rather than a beery audience wine would have topped the poll, as in the vast majority of cases the country of origin is a key part of its identity. On the other hand, a substantial proportion of the beer sold in the UK is actually foreign brands brewed here under licence and, as I reported here, the average drinker of Carlsberg, Stella or San Miguel is well aware that his beer isn’t actually brewed in the country associated with the name, and isn’t really that bothered. The higher you go up the premium scale, though, the more consumers would be unhappy that an ostensibly Belgian or US brand wasn’t actually produced in that country.

This works on several different levels, for example

  • Expecting a basic standard of honesty about where products come from so consumers are not being deliberately misled
  • A badge of authenticity and integrity in the supply chain
  • Choosing products from a particular country because of specific national characteristics
  • Wanting to favour particular countries and avoid the produce of others for “political” reasons, whether preferring goods from your own country or boycotting those from countries that for whatever reason you don’t like
In the field of beer, while knowing the country of origin is clearly very important for enthusiasts, as I mentioned above the average consumer isn’t really too concerned. Many popular beers simply say “brewed in the EU” on the bottle or can. However, even this audience is much more relaxed about other products. In the wake of the “Peckham Spring” controversy, the low figure for bottled water is perhaps surprising. And how many people actually check the country of origin on clothing labels before making a purchase? It has also been said that, of major car-producing nations, Britain actually has the first genuinely post-nationalistic car market.

The regulations covering food labelling are extremely complex and, looking through my cupboards, while most packaged foodstuffs do seem to show the country of origin, some, such as chocolate bars and a jar of pickle, don’t. That a company has a UK address does not guarantee UK production. The bottle of HP sauce admits to being “made in the Netherlands”, but has that damaged sales? In fact, supermarket own brands seem to do better on this front than branded goods. While I’m not a regular buyer, I recall that supermarket own-brand beers, even bog-standard Tesco Lager, state in which country they are brewed.


  1. I always used to joke when my sister ordered San Miguel that it was brewed in the exotic, sun-kissed climes of Northampton. I also told people that the reassuringly expensive Stella was brewed in a big tin shed just outside Preston.

    Didn't make any difference. They drank it anyway.

  2. All consumer information is worth while. I've long been surprised a fair trade brand has not emerged for clothes. Considering the regularity of scandals of slave kids knocking up Nike trainers and primark jumpers, and there being no guarantee of pricier stuff being more ethical, it always looked a no brainer. I mean, if the market provides fair trade coffee, why not trainers?

    As for beer, every wondered what you'd drink if you insisted on knowing all the things you insist are important? If you made a consumer stand and said you'd only pay your own money if they followed the consumer rules you consider important. I suspect you'd drink in only Sam Smiths pubs and at home drink only lager. No bad thing, Sams Double four lout is rather nice.

  3. Well, no, you didn't exactly report that the "average drinker" doesn't care about "provenance". You provided a link to one of your pieces which referenced (incorrectly) this little opinion piece.

    In reality, the smart(?) money seems to be going the other way. viz. (for example) Molson Coors multi-million Carling campaign "Made with 100% British Barley".

  4. The point still holds true for drinkers of Carlsberg, Fosters, Kronenbourg, San Miguel, Budweiser etc. While seeing these as beers of foreign heritage, they are well aware they're actually brewed in the UK and not really bothered.

    Carling is a slightly different case as it has never traded on its "Canadianness" and indeed has now come to be accepted as an authentically British brand, hence the advertising you refer to.

  5. You may be right. But without asking all the happy drinkers of faux foreign beers, I can't imagine how we'd know that for a fact. I wouldn't be surprised if many of these drinkers don't give it a moment's thought one way or another. Which is not the same thing.

  6. They don't want to do that for fear of getting an answer they don't like, Stringy.

    Something on the lines of pubs not being about the beer but being social environments and having friends that are not beer nerds. About a drink being gentle, easy going & consistent and just a lubrication to the evening rather than the point of the evening.

    Don't make the beardy beer nerds ask a question they don't want an answer too.

  7. On the research of vote now beer an wine are very close..So their is no big difference to choose one of them.Thanks for post.


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