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“The optimism in the industry at the moment is sensational” Campbell Evans

Ian Wisniewski talks to Campbell Evans,The Scotch Whisky Association's director of government andconsumer affairs
By Ian Wisniewski
Ian (IW): How would you describe your role, it sounds like multi-tasking on a global scale ?Campbell (CE): Our primary focus is to protect Scotch whisky. When you’re selling in 200 countries you also have to monitor advertising regulations, import regulations, taxes, tariffs, labelling requirements, a host of things that if we didn’t do centrally each company will have to do themselves. We go into bat on behalf of the industry where discriminatory taxes, tariffs or other requirements hinder Scotch whisky’s potential, 90 per cent of Scotch whisky is sold overseas. We’re also involved in customs regulations, Health & Safety regulations, scientific issues around how Scotch whisky is made, and one of the most important pieces of our work currently is alcohol and health, and alcohol’s place in society, and that’s a huge part of my own individual work. But we’re also generally promoting Scotch whisky, which includes media relations and government relations in the United Kingdom.IW: Is it too simplistic to divide export markets into those which don’t have tariff issues and those that do ?CE:Yes. Trading in the European Union should be straightforward but is getting less so as more labelling requirements are brought in at national level. There’s great excitement that we’re in China but we’re probably only in three cities in China, and tariffs are coming down in India.There are lots of opportunities in Poland. There are huge opportunities for Scotch whisky going forward, the optimism in the industry at the moment is sensational.IW: Ten years ago two industry phrases were ‘White spirits are the future, aged spirits the past,’ and ‘Soon multi-nationals will own everything.’ The spectacular rise of malts, specialist producers and niche brands show these sayings need frequent updating.CE: The optimism and entrepeneurship that has been throughout Scotch whisky’s history continues to be there. We’re a global industry, so opportunities for players of all sizes differ from market to market, depending on their strengths and consumer tastes in the market.IW: Scotch whisky has become a lifestyle, you can enjoy the taste, read about it, talk about it on line or in person, visit distilleries, attend festivals and join clubs, it’s amazing.CE: Scotch whisky is passion and emotion, that drives people within the industry and people who enjoy it as consumers. I think that’s one of the most fascinating parts about Scotch whisky because it really looks back to a place in terms of malt whisky, and relates back to the individual distillery, distillery manager, or the blender. That allows people to get very personal in their choices, and in their passion. Through the Keepers of the Quaich the industry has done a phenomenal service to recognise people who have taken Scotch whisky to their hearts globally, and really worked hard at promoting and believing in Scotch, not because of the pure business success it might bring them, but because they love the drink and the link it brings about with Scotland.IW: Blends have opened up various markets, usually followed by a growth of interest in malts both single and blended. What potential do you see for vatted/blended malts ?CE: There are huge opportunities, if you talk to people about what’s happening in specific markets say in Taiwan for example, and in other countries, blended malts are certainly grabbing an interest. Someone said to me recently blended malts have increased interest in blended Scotch whisky.IW: Is that because they highlight how fascinating the blending process is?CE: I think it’s the opportunity to talk to people about how you get that complexity.IW: With the eco-agenda increasingly important in every industry, what’s the SWA’s position ?CE:We operate on two levels, there’s the SWA activity on behalf of the whole industry, and companies will want to position themselves as individual companies.Certainly the industry’s taking a close interest on climate change, and we’ve already hit our targets for 2010, these were challenging targets, covering emissions and use of energy. There’s a whole host of things we’ve already been doing and continue to look at.