Call it unlikely bed fellows the big tent, or whatever, but there was something for everyone (or something to offend everyone) last week at the Center for Alcohol Policy's 5th Annual Alcohol Law Symposium. More than a hundred alcohol regulators, attorneys, public health advocates and industry members attended. In other words: Frenemies.
WHAT DRINKERS THINK. Pollster Chris Wilson of Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research described the findings of the CAP's latest poll on public attitudes toward alcohol policy. According to Wilson, "Americans do not think alcohol is just another consumer product." They "still strongly support state regulations on alcohol." Among the poll findings: 72% say states should regulate alcohol because it is different from other consumer goods; 79% believe that alcohol is NOT just like toilet paper and tin foil (that stands in contrast to Costco's wine buyer who was interviewed on CNBC earlier this year); 78% support the current drinking age of 21 or older; 81% support the rights of states to determine their own laws and regulations regarding the sale of alcohol; 74% believe that local businesses should be in charge of alcohol distribution in the local community because they understand local preferences; and 72% agree that the U.S. should not follow the UK and remove alcohol regulation.
SIDEBAR: You may recall that there was a dust-up about these findings a few weeks ago, with Discus telling UK publication just-drinks that the comparison with UK and US regulatory scheme just served to "foment fear". Yet even this week the Czech Republic and Poland have severly restricted liquor sales due to counterfeiting and poising.
STATE-BASED REGULATION. Maryland Attorney General and National Association of Attorneys General President Doug Gansler stressed the job of attorneys general as the "watchdog" in protecting the public and children from the abuses of alcohol. His job isn't to make the law, but to enforce what state legislature pass, he said. He emphasized the state's role in alcohol regulation and the need to resist a federal government takeover in this area because they "mess up everything." Issues he mentioned that attorneys general are monitoring include marketing practices of "alco-pops" that might appeal to kids, social host laws, the issue of re-sealable, high volume containers and different taxation rates for different types of alcohol beverages.
STATE CRAFT EXEMPTIONS: GOOD POLICY OR SLIPPERY SLOPE?
One interesting discussion at the CAP centered on the "deregulatory creep" that craft brewers are seeking in several states. Andy Stepanian of Silver Eagle Distributors outlined the challenges in Texas, where craft brewers have been working the papers and the statehouse to move bills that would allow for limited self distribution, tax and fee relief, brewery sales to consumers, and allowing brewpubs to sell outside their walls -- all as exemptions to the Texas bev-alc code.
While many distributors in the state are sympathetic to some or all of these needs, the problem comes when this deregulatory creep starts to threaten the fundamental reasons the three-tier system exists in the first place. Indeed, the common refrain BBD has heard in the state from distributors is: Can you open up the alcohol code to bills to allow these exceptions without large suppliers and even retailers getting involved? It's a slippery slope, they say. The distributor lobby in Texas (as in many states) is very strong, and we've heard that the craft community's past anti-three-tier "rhetoric" in the press has sometimes rubbed them the wrong way. "We've tried to work with them and then we get slammed in the [Dallas] Morning News or the [Austin American] Statesman," wrote one Texas distributor to BBD in an email. And then you may open up the state to Granholm issues. Writes our distributor: "You can philosophically agree that craft brewers should have these exemptions. But does that just open up the state to more commerce clause challenges in the future by wineries or breweries or even by Southern?"
PREVIOUS ISSUE: COLBERT RESIGNS FROM HUSA
In case you missed it, Heineken USA just announced to distributors that Jeff Colbert, rvp of the central region, has resigned from the company effective Friday, September 21st. "Jeff has made this difficult decision due to emerging family health responsibilities that require him to spend his time in the Dallas area," said the company in a note.
"My decision to leave HEINEKEN USA was incredibly difficult, but taking care of my family is my foremost priority," said Jeff. "From NDC to the programming we executed this summer, I'm incredibly impressed with this organization and I'm confident in the strategy Dolf, Scott and the rest of the Sales Leadership Team have laid forth. I've been in the beer industry for many years, and I can tell you from personal experience, this is a special time to be with this company," he added. Jeff came to HUSA from MillerCoors.
HUSA also announced the promotion of Cormac McCarthy [taking time off from his successful career in literature] to Zone Director for the Midland Zone effective October 15, replacing Brian Crochet who was recently promoted to Business Development Director for the Central Region. Cormac is moving from the Chicago Metro Market Manager position and will now be responsible for leading their Midland team.
In the Western Region, John Barney will be Zone Director for the Pacific Zone. John is moving from the New York Metro Market Manager position and will now be responsible for the leading and developing the Pacific Zone team. He joined Heineken USA in 1997.
HUSA ROLLS OUT NEW HEINEKEN LONGNECK
For the first time since 1946, Heineken has redesigned their bottle for U.S. consumers. The revamped "Star Bottle" is set to hit select New York State markets beginning mid-September, with a national roll-out slated to begin in March 2013, available in 12 oz. and 22 oz. sizes. HUSA says it "features an embossed thumb groove that improves grip and encourages people to hold the bottle at a lower point, keeping the beer colder."
BREWPIC: The new Heineken longneck NR. Old bottle on the left, new bottle on the right.
Until tomorrow, Harry
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