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Friday, May 28, 2010

Samichlaus Label Geared Towards Children?

If you take a look at the front page of yesterday's National Post you'll notice the headline ' Santa' beer on Ontario's naughty list' which shed's some light on an ongoing struggle between the importers of world famous Samichlaus beer from Austria's Eggenberg Brewery and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

Those of us who follow the Ontario beer industry will have known about this issue for a number of years now, but the article penned by Drew Halfnight did a great job telling the rest of Ontario beer drinkers the real story; a story that should be told and needs to be heard.  I strongly encourage you to go read the article first (if you haven't already) before continuing with this post.......

**Before I continue, I must point out that I know the owners of Roland and Russell Importers, Vlado and Liliana Pavicic, very well, they are both good friends of mine**

At issue is the name/label of the beer, which as you can read in the letters below (which are very vague and don't really provide much information), was originally under the AGCO’s microscope long before the Pavicic’s began representing them here in Ontario.  Samichlaus translated in English means Santa Claus, which the AGCO have issue with, as well as the image on the label (old man).

Here’s where it gets confusing.  The AGCO first found the label in contravention of their advertising guidelines back in 2001 but the matter was dormant until recently.  A single individual lodged a complaint with the AGCO, who by law were forced to investigate and their finding is relayed to the Pavicic’s in the letters.

The LCBO is quoted in the article as saying that the beer was de-listed for commercial reasons and that it had nothing to do with the label, as they were not aware of the AGCO's stance.  It would seem that way; especially since the beer was purchased by the LCBO and sold through there retail system after 2001, even with the AGCO’s determination.

The LCBO, as we all know, work off the Social Responsibility tagline when determining whether or not a product’s label/name meets their own “internal requirements”.  The LCBO, who have been great recently with their beer selections, have no official documentation that the public (or importers/manufacturers) can view that outlines their reasoning for these requirements. 

The AGCO, if they find a product in contravention of their advertising guidelines, will only follow up with the importer/manufacturer and not the LCBO (unless the matter is of great concern).  So, the LCBO may be selling products that have been, or are currently in contravention of the AGCO’s guidelines.  And how do they decide which product they will investigate?  Complaints.  There is no pre-approval of names or labels.  They AGCO won’t investigate anything unless there is a complaint. The LCBO, however, sees all products when they get submitted and they may determine it doesn’t fit their requirements.  Still confusing?  I know, my head is hurting too.

This all means that two agencies are pretty much doing the same thing but could get two totally different outcomes and communication between the two doesn’t really exist.

What does all this mean for Samichlaus and Roland and Russell Imports?  Well, for starters, individuals will still be able to do private orders through Roland and Russell as the beer wouldn’t actually be sold through the Ontario liquor retail system (stores).  The AGCO have no issue with that, even though it wasn't spelled out in the correspondence to the Pavicic's.  However, the beer cannot be sold through in the LCBO unless the label/name of the beer is changed. 

But I thought I just said the AGCO couldn’t tell the LCBO which product they can and can’t sell?  I did, and they can’t (AGCO - licences, LCBO - retail), but Roland and Russell, as importers, must comply with the AGCO’s advertising requirements (as silly as they are) and this would include notifying the LCBO themselves, which would most likely result in the LCBO removing the item/s in question.  This is concerning for an agency such as Roland and Russell when the AGCO starts issuing pretty vague letters, as they are also the regulatory body that issues licences to importers (manufacturer's representative licence).

*On a side note*
If the Samichlaus label/name is in contravention of the AGCO’s advertising guidelines, one must wonder how the Old St. Nick’s Eggnog (spiced rum drink) seasonal release receives no complaints??  Look at the god damn label.

But why even lodge a complaint against a product?  If you have responsible service and educated parents, there is no need to, and there should be no need for two separate agencies telling people what can and can’t be drawn on a label!

*Please note that Lynda Clayton (author of the two letters before) has since retired from the AGCO*

1 comment:

Pootz said...

Troy we can argue the fine points of administrative process, it's inherent hypocrisy/redundancy when it hides behind moral pretense until day break.

The bottom line is we have a government run retail monopoly in league with a pointless pseudo-moral authority and it has created an identity crisis in alcohol marketing and consumer culture in this province.

The LCBO has to decide if it is a retailer responsive to it's client/customer base or a social engineering busy body who presumes to meddle in their personal choices under some pretentious moral authority.

I don't have to tell you how grotesquely out of alignment with both modern consumer trends/needs and culture both the LCBO and OGLC are.

Time we shook off the cobwebs of repressed Victorian plutocracy and step into the demand driven markets and aware consumerism of the 21st century.

Both these government fossilized vestages are retarding the industries which are forced into dealing with them as well as retarding cultural evolution.

It's past bitching time. Political pressure is due. I'm thinking restructuring the OGLC/LCBO's roll and mandate with an eye to opening up entrepreneurial development in the brewing, vinting, distilling import, retail and hospitality industries should be an election issue.

But it will take a coalition of industry associations and consumer groups to get this rolling. So far the attitude among brewer/vinter/bar industry NGOs has been to not poke the sleeping troll with a stick. Maybe it will take an coalition of individual stake holders and consumers to form a political pressure group and start the political ball rolling.

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