Five -minute focus

05 September, 2008

James Rackham, chairman,

Emporia Brand


Standing up for independents

Emporia Brands

calls on 200 independent retailers, working and training with them. Independents are a massive part of our investment and they're totally overlooked in the industry. They can be ambassadors

for our portfolio. Gerry's on Old Compton Street is a brilliant spirits retailer, and so is

Heading for recession

I used to work as the state mineral economist for Queensland in Australia. We are heading in the direction of a recession - it certainly feels like a recession and it will get worse before it gets better. We are in the last six months before the storm breaks. My fear was we would see a knee-jerk reaction with spirits going down in quality. Buyers have resisted that so far, although there has been some range reduction

and economic culling. More than ever independents are going to find their cash flow is their biggest daily worry .

Next big thing

The market in the UK is looking for a brandy with some maturity, some vanilla tones and potential for good mixology. With Spanish brandy, the opportunity for big growth is the under-30s market. African brandy is also perfect for the recession as people are going to trade down in terms of price. KWV African Spear brandy is a brand that has quality and provenance, and re naming it African Mishale, which is a tribal word for spear, will increase the brand's authenticity.

Quality benchmark

It's a pity there can't be an AOC benchmark for minimum quality alcohol - there should be. You can distil from anything and put it on the market . Standard health and safety regulations are

all that protects consumers, why isn't there control of spirits in general? At entry-level there's a bigger risk of having rubbish brands and products. We have

a lot of people in the UK

on the breadline and they need to be served with better alcohol at a good price point. When price is a critical factor in selection criteria, there should be a minimum standard quality that's acceptable, like South African wine, which has to gain a seal of approval from government.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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