Sweden: IOGT-NTO Exposes Liquor Giant’s New Lobby Front Group
IOGT-NTO exposes vodka giant Absolut’s efforts of political interference.
IOGT-NTO, the largest popular movement in Sweden for alcohol prevention, is able to expose that vodka giant The Absolut Company has created a new, still not publicly announced, lobby front group, to interfere in Swedish alcohol policy making.
The Absolut brand’s vodka is the world’s fifth largest international liquor brand and Absolut’s owner Pernod Ricard, a multinational alcohol giant, is the world’s second largest wine and liquor producer. Now, the Asbolut company has created a new lobby front group called “Sweden’s Producers of Alcoholic Beverages.”
This new lobby front group was exposed when IOGT-NTO, one of the largest member organizations of Movendi International, requested a series of e-mail relating to the political issue of farm sales of alcohol (“gårdsförsäljning”) that were sent to the Government. In the e-mails it appeared that the company Absolut was committed to increasing its political influence by creating a new lobbying front group, in parallel with the already existing Swedish Wine and Liquor Suppliers (SVL).
If the government chooses to appoint an expert group to the farm sales investigation, we would like to see a representative from Sweden’s Producers of Alcoholic Beverages be part of it,” wrote Absolut’s chief lobbyist to the government, as per IOGT-NTO.
The Absolut Company and their owner, liquor giant Pernod Ricard, are already members of Sweden’s Liquor and Wine Suppliers, SVL. Absolut is also a major company in several large enterprise organizations such as the trade organization “Livsmedelsföretagarna” and Visita.
So why does Absolut need a new lobby front group?
IOGT-NTO believes it’s to do with dominance. The Absolut Company holds the chair of the new lobby front group and have registered the organization at their address and, in comparison with the other six official members, is a giant among ants.
Absolut is not a small-scale company, neither does it manufacture their products on a farm, however, the company has long invested heavily in influencing public opinion about what in Sweden is called farm sales of alcohol. This is evident through organizations in which Absolut has been involved for several years which promote farm sales of alcohol, including Visita, the Livsmedelsföretagarna (Grocery Enterprises) and the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.
Why is Absolut interested in farm sales?
IOGT-NTO reveals that Pernod Ricard’s interest in pushing “farm sales” in Sweden is probably to do with weakening Systembolaget, the Swedish alcohol retail monopoly.
Government-run alcohol retail monopolies, such as Systembolaget in the case of Sweden, remove the profit interest from alcohol retail and replace it with a public health and safety perspective; they are highly effective in reducing alcohol availability and affordability and they are widely popular in Swedish society.
Two state investigations have already shown that if farm sales of alcohol were introduced, Systembolaget’s exclusive rights to sell alcohol in Sweden would disappear. As IOGT-NTO explains if Systembolaget’s exclusive right disappears, for example by introducing farm sales, EU law requires that goods and companies from other EU countries be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages in the same way as Swedish ones. Systembolaget would need to be disbanded. Therefore, the tiny question of selling alcohol on local farms is in fact a major issue for the future of the Swedish alcohol policy model – that has succeeded in protecting people from alcohol harm.
Alcohol giants such as Absolut will win big if Systembolaget was to be destroyed.
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 market budgets. If this happens the other members of the new lobby front group such as Härnö Gin, Purity Distillery and High Coast Distillery AB would be the biggest losers as they won’t have the budget to compete with alcohol giant Absolut.
But society at large would suffer the most from the destruction of the Swedish alcohol policy model, that rests on Systembolaget as a major pillar. The example of this new lobby front group clearly shows how Big Alcohol is putting their own private profits above the public interest and the welfare of society. Pernod Ricard is one of those alcohol giants that have an appalling track record of unethical business practices and Absolut itself has been exposed for its shambolic tactics.
For further reading:
Read more about global Big Alcohol interference
Sweden: Why So Many Support the Alcohol Retail Monopoly
Estimating the public health impact of disbanding a government alcohol monopoly: application of new methods to the case of Sweden