When the lobbying push for “farm sales” (Swedish: Gårdsförsäljning) first was launched it sounded like the proposal was about a few local, rural vineyards in Sweden. But the IOGT-NTO report exposes a different reality: the push for “farm sales” is a convoluted hybrid swallowed up by Big Alcohol with the aim of undoing Systembolaget and maximizing private profits for alcohol industry shareholders and executives.
The IOGT-NTO report digs deeper into what “farm sales” really means and who is actually behind the lobbying push. The report also examines the price society would have to pay if the alcohol industry had their way. The release of the new report is timely, as yet another – the third – public investigation into the issue of “farm sales.”
The IOGT-NTO report exposes three main myths about “Gårdsförsäljning” propagated by Big Alcohol to manipulate the public and garner political support.
Gårdsförsäljning is a scam. It would turn into garage sales of alcohol in urban areas.”IOGT-NTO report
- The manufacturing scam.
“Farm sales” of alcohol is about giving manufacturers of alcoholic beverages the opportunity to sell alcohol directly to the customer. What is hidden from view is that to be considered a “manufacturer” or “producer” of alcoholic beverages, a person does not have to grow the raw materials or produce the alcohol themselves. For example, it is enough to add raspberry flavor to 97% factory-bought raw alcohol, dilute with water and pour into a bottle.
- The rural bluff.
“Farm sales” are presented as if they could rescue rural and small business. But, there is no clear limit to what constitutes a “farm sale” spelled out in the Big Alcohol proposal regarding alcohol production or sales on farms or rural areas. Currently, cities dominate alcohol production in Sweden with the majority of breweries and distilleries being close to major cities. Private sales of alcohol are also concentrated in major cities as demand is higher in urban areas. The truth is it would become garage sales of alcohol not “farm sales.”
- The innocence scam.
“Farm sales” is presented as a way to “help” rural small business when it is anything but. The “farm sales” proposal would allow for profit interests to enter alcohol retail in Sweden. Currently, the system of the Swedish government-run alcohol retail monopoly, Systembolaget, has elimintaed profit maximization from alcohol retail. “Farm sales” would topple the retail monopoly and deregulate alcohol sales. And the proposal and lobbying is orchestrated by Big Alcohol companies not rural wine producers as Big Alcohol would want us to believe..
Not so innocent: The Absolut Company’s investment towards “farm sales”
The “farm sales” proposal is aggressively pushed by Big Alcohol – despite the popularity of and trust in Systembolaget. A major proponent is The Absolut Company which is a part of the alcohol giant Pernod Ricard. The company pushes for “farm sales” through an extensive network of memberships and board positions in influential business and industry organizations. These include but are not limited to the Liquor & Wine Suppliers Association, the Food Companies and local chambers of commerce.
Previously Movendi International reported about IOGT-NTO’s revelation that Absolut created a new lobby group just for “farm sales”. The lobby groups is called the Sweden’s Producers of Alcoholic Beverages.
Absolut is known for developing sales strategies to increase their profits and sales in a deregulated market that they advocate for. Through the concept Our / Vodka, they have, for example, put in place systems to finance and build new distilleries and then let the business be run under a different name. Essentially the company would increase sales and profits of their products directly and also by providing raw spirits to new manufacturers of alcoholic beverages.
Society will pay the price
“Farm sales” would increase private alcohol sales which will topple the current alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget. Alcohol giants such as Absolut will win big if Systembolaget was to be destroyed.
Two previous state investigations have already shown that if “farm sales” of alcohol were introduced, Systembolaget’s exclusive rights to sell alcohol in Sweden would disappear.
When alcohol is sold by private stores the sales depend on factors such as shelf location, shelf space and product placement – all of which can be controlled by alcohol giants with large marketing budgets.
The Absolut Company through Pernod Ricard has resources to dominate the advertising space, exclude small producers and buy out competitors, thus creating their own monopoly.
Society at large would suffer the most from the destruction of the Swedish alcohol policy model, that rests on Systembolaget as a major pillar. With the introduction of the profit motive into alcohol retail in Sweden, there would be at a conflict of interest at play.
Global experience shows that the industry can not be trusted to follow the law when profit is in question. Big Alcohol’s attempts to regulate itself through voluntary codes of conduct have been shown to be systemtiacally violated by the alcohol industry and to cause more harm than good.
For example in 2018, every fourth restaurant with an alcohol license never received an inspection visit from the municipality and there is no indication that the inspection would work better for retail trade in alcohol. Alcohol will start to reach minors as age limits are looked over and sales hours will be pushed leading to higher consumption. Inevitably leading to more alcohol harm.
The evidence is clear. “Farm sales” would be a no win situation for Sweden.
IOGT-NTO: “TROJAN HORSE OF THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY“
TV4 NYHETERNA: “Farm sales of alcohol benefit large spirits companies“
Dagens Nyheter: “DN Debate. “Farm sales are a scam by Sweden’s largest alcohol company“