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Welsh beer and spirits planning for a robust future

Producers from across the Welsh beer and spirits sectors have gathered to launch their respective strategies to improve sector collaboration and drive growth moving forward.

Held at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay, the Welsh Beer Strategy and Welsh Spirits Strategy will help the drinks industry meet current challenges, including the cost of living crisis and spiralling energy, supply chain and raw material costs.

The drinks industry remains integral to the Welsh economy, with a turnover last year of just over £820m. Beer and cider accounted for £212m of this, with spirits being £241m. This makes drinks the fourth biggest food sector in Wales behind red meat, dairy and bakery. Furthermore, over 1,200 people are employed in the industry, with many of them based in rural locations.

The two strategies were developed by leading industry figures from the brewing and distilling sectors, facilitated by the Food & Drink Wales Drinks Cluster. Support and input was also received from Welsh Government officials at Food & Drink Wales, along with wider partners.

Themes identified as being critical for the future success of both industries include increasing the level of Welsh product in the on and off-trade, boosting their tourism offer, through brewery and distillery tours, increasing exports, upskilling the workforce to help drive knowledge transfer and innovation, along with closer collaborations across the supply chain to help with efficiencies and cost savings.

Following the publication of the strategies, a timeline has been in put in place to monitor progress, with an evaluation of their impact slated for the summer of 2026.

Commenting on the two strategies, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths, said, “I was pleased to attend the launch of the Welsh Beer Strategy and the Welsh Spirits Strategy, and see first-hand the ambition and willingness to collaborate that exists amongst our brewers and distillers.

“The strategies will help drive wider benefits, such as boosting tourism across the country.

“Both beer and spirit production are highly valuable to the Welsh economy, and a thriving drinks sector is vital to a successful food and drink industry, and will help raise its profile overseas.”

The Welsh beer industry has experienced unprecedented disruption and economic shocks in recent years, with the Covid pandemic proving to be particularly damaging amidst continuing pub closures.

However, there remains over 60 established brewers in Wales employing 600 people, with a further 63 smaller enterprises.

Richard Lever of Magic Dragon Brewing said, “The Welsh Beer Strategy offers us a clear vision of where we want to take the industry, and the areas we need to focus on to create a profitable and sustainable brewing industry.

“We can see that people are prepared to pay a premium for a quality product, and we are blessed in Wales to have so many breweries who take pride in their product and are prepared to work collaboratively with each other to help drive the industry forward.”

The Welsh spirits sector is a relatively small, but a thriving sector with huge potential. With 53 companies employing over 300 people, it plays a crucial role in preserving cultural heritage, promoting local economies, and celebrating the unique flavours and traditions of Wales.

In a significant milestone, Single Malt Welsh Whisky was recently awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status, joining the likes of Scotch Whisky by being recognised for its unique flavour and tradition.

Speaking of his hopes for the Welsh spirits industry, Chris Leeke of Hensol Castle Distillery said, “We want to be at the forefront of a thriving industry, and the Welsh Spirits Strategy will help us achieve this.

“Our vision is to be recognised for the quality of our product, which will help us compete in both local and global markets. Many of us want to capitalise on export opportunities, which can only help raise the profile of our food and drink industry overseas.

We hope we can continue to build our profile and show consumers that by choosing Welsh, they are getting a product full to the brim with quality and provenance.”