New Brewers of Europe head speaks out on industry threats

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

Governments throughout Europe are threatening tighter alcohol regulations and beer consumption is on the decline. In this challenging environment, the new secretary general of The Brewers of Europe, Pierre-Olivier Bergeron, speaks out on his priorities and plans.

Bergeron took over as secretary general of the trade association at the beginning of the year following the retirement of his long-serving predecessor Rodolphe de Looz-Corswarem.

Having worked as deputy to Looz-Corswarem since 2007, Bergeron told BeverageDaily.com that his former boss had turned The Brewers of Europe into a modern organisation with a strong voice in the EU.

Citing initiatives like the creation of the European Parliament (EP) Beer Club, Bergeron said Looz-Corswarem has ensured that European decision makers understand the issues facing the brewing sector.

Alcohol policy

As the new secretary general, Bergeron said he intends to continue this work. But the head of The Brewers of Europe faces some tough challenges ahead, as pressure rises throughout Europe for tougher alcohol policies.

On this point, Bergeron said he wants to impress on EU decision makers the "conviviality" of beer, and its role in European well-being. This message covers the place of beer in European culture and society, as well as the importance of the brewing industry to European economies and jobs.

But Bergeron also wants to ensure that arguments against minimum alcohol pricing and tougher advertising rules are clearly heard. Responding to advocates of tougher policies, Bergeron said: “They are wrong and we need to explain why they are wrong.”

The Brewers of Europe advocates targeted schemes rather than major regulatory changes as the best way to tackle alcohol related harm.

Britain versus France

It has been argued that British-style self regulation has failed and the best way forward is French style restrictions on alcohol promotion. But Bergeron, himself a Frenchman, said he has seen no evidence to suggest that the advertising restrictions in the 1990 Loi Evin have reduced alcohol related harm in France.

Alcohol consumption may have decreased in France since 1990, but Bergeron said there was a downward trend in place already. As for the self-regulation system in the UK, he said it is a “source of inspiration”​ for other countries in Europe.

If some people see fault in the system, he said perhaps they are just expecting too much, and that regulation does not hold a magic key to reducing alcohol abuse. Instead, the Brewers of Europe argues that the best approach to tackling abuse involves more flexible and targeted schemes.

In the podcast accompanying this article, Bergeron explains how the Brewers of Europe intends to defend brewers against the threat of tighter alcohol policies, and provide support in the face of declining beer consumption and the challenge of sustainability.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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