IRELAND. The introduction of a new Public Health (Alcohol) Bill could prompt many international wines & spirits brands to withdraw from Irish travel retail, industry campaigners and ARI parent company DAA have warned.

The Bill imposes strict labelling on bottles; calls for an end to below-cost selling through minimum unit pricing; restricts alcohol advertising and sponsorship and will separate alcohol products from other categories in retail outlets.

Travel retail has gained exemptions from most elements of the Bill, but crucially not the labelling requirement. This calls for health warnings (taking up to one-third of space on the bottle) in both Irish and English languages.

Industry campaigners have been lobbying against the bill for more than two years. They argue that the cost to international brands of producing Irish-compliant labelling will not warrant the investment, and could see many brands withdraw from the market. Travel retail exclusives, produced in limited quantities, would likely be discontinued, they warn, leaving an offer that is no different from the local market.

The new legislation on labelling could deter brands from investing in Ireland’s travel retail market, warns DAA (Dublin T1 pictured)

Duty Free World Council President Frank O’Connell said: “The Irish alcohol bill in its current form will cause significant supply problems for Irish duty free & travel retail operators. Travel retail exclusive products – which differentiate our offer from that of the High Street will simply be too expensive to produce for an Irish travel retail market alone. We have made this point numerous times to the Irish Minister of Health and are hopeful that even at this late stage that common sense will prevail.”

DAA spokesman Paul O’Kane said: “The proposed legislation will leave the Irish travel retail sector at a competitive disadvantage to other European countries and, on that basis, we have regularly raised our concerns about the impact of the bill with key stakeholders.”

The legislation was debated in the Seanad (Senate) in late 2017 and will be signed into law if it passed through the main house of parliament (Dáil) in coming weeks.

Campaigners remain hopeful that travel retail can still obtain an exemption on labelling before the bill reaches this stage. We understand there is strong support for the industry’s position from main opposition party Fianna Fáil and from independent TDs (members of parliament).

In addition, the industry has proposed technological solutions, including coding on bottles in-store that can be scanned to show labelling in multiple languages.

O’Connell said: We are proposing to the Irish government a better alternative than on-pack labelling for the provision of important consumer information. By harnessing modern technology and using smartphones and in-store readers, we can make sure that the same information can be provided in multiple languages to all our customers. The solution, which ETRC has been developing for some time now, will do a much better job for our international customers than simple labels on bottles in the English and Irish languages. It will also ensure our customers will still be able to enjoy the level of choice and variety that they do today.”