In 2018 the Distilled Spirits Council of Australia (DSICA) rebranded to become Spirits & Cocktails Australia.

With Australia seeing great growth in the popularity of spirits, both in themselves and as ingredients for cocktails designed to meet all occasions and tastes, CEO Alec Wagstaff explains the thinking behind the change.

“Our new name and branding reflects that trend and that the industry we represent covers a wide range of stakeholders beyond our members,” Wagstaff said. “Our new name and look have been very well received by all stakeholders. We are the first spirits association in the world to incorporate cocktails in our name.”

Reflecting on a great year of change, Wagstaff added that the association is now in a much stronger position to look forward.

“We’ve rebranded, we broadened our membership base, built stronger relationships across the industry and political spectrum, and expanded our team,” he said. “All these form a strong platform to achieve some real reform that will help realise the potential of the spirits industry in Australia.

“We don’t underestimate the challenges ahead but we are better positioned at the end of 2018 to meet them than we were at the end of 2017.”

As well as rebranding and being in a strong position to tackle the important issues surrounding Australia’s alcohol industry in the coming years, one of Spirits & Cocktails Australia’s other big achievements of 2018 was recruiting Pernod Ricard as a member of the association. As Wagstaff said this move helps to strengthen the association’s position and influence in Australia.

“It’s great to have Pernod Ricard on board,” he said. “Their experience and expertise in spirits, as well as their perspective as a global investor, can only strengthen an already strong Board.

“Our influence is a combination of the strength of our relationships and the trust we build, combined with an absolute commitment to fact-based advocacy.”

And in terms of looking forward, Wagstaff highlighted the important role that Spirits & Cocktails Australia can play for the industry in 2019.

“A Federal election creates an opportunity to again make the case for policies which will encourage investment in a sector which has the potential to be a major exporter as well as protecting the existing manufacturing and marketing base,” he said.

“More broadly, we have an important role in working across the alcohol industry to ensure fact-based public policy which encourages responsible consumption, and recognises the positive role the industry and our products play in the lives of many Australians.”

Beyond the trade and political issues, Wagstaff also used his vast experience in the industry to predict what he believes will be the big spirits trends for the year ahead, and his ideas present retailers with strong opportunities.

“Continued innovation with premix products,” he said, adding, “cocktails are increasingly being seen as an essential offer for any generous host and this brings flow-on opportunities for retailers, and [I predict] renewed interest in whisky of all kinds.”

Finally Wagstaff said that despite the many challenges the industry is facing, he is optimistic about the year ahead. Why? “In one word – opportunity.”

He added: “We have a great industry with the backbone being the manufacture, marketing, sale and distribution of global brands complemented by exciting growth in the emerging local spirits sector. Despite the steep taxation and regulatory hurdles we face there is a spirit of excitement in the industry.”

This article was written for the 2019 National Liquor News Annual Industry Leaders Forum published in February.

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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