Halewood Artisanal Spirits is to move production of JJ Whitley Vodka back to UK in response to Russia’s military action against Ukraine. It has joined a growing swell of food industry players making similar moves.
The Co-op and Morrisons have removed Russian vodka from shelves. Marks & Spencer has suspended shipments to its Turkish franchisee's Russian business and offered millions of pounds in aid to Ukrainian refugees and families affected by the war.
Fats and oils giant AAK issued this statement yesterday (3 March): "AAK has decided to temporarily halt deliveries to, and sales in, Russia. Even though AAK is a supplier in the food sector, which is not subject to sanctions, it has become very difficult to secure compliance to sanctions related to logistics and trade flows as well as third parties.
"AAK has a sales office in Ukraine with approximately 10 employees, whose safety is our main focus. We are in continuous dialogue with them and will do our utmost to ensure their continued safety. Russia makes up 3% of AAK’s volumes, as measured in metric tons, and Ukraine makes up less than 1%. AAK continuously evaluates the situation and will adopt accordingly."
Craft breweries, cider makers, wineries, and drinkers across Europe are coming together for a series of events throughout March to raise funds and show solidarity for friends and peers in Ukraine. The Drinkers For Ukraine initiative is a fundraising drive to support the International Red Cross humanitarian relief effort in Ukraine. Starting today, the campaign is asking people around the world, and across the drinks industry to get involved, in whatever way they can.
Drinkers for Ukraine
As well as inviting businesses and individuals to join a charity online auction of rare and sought-after items, Drinkers for Ukraine has also called upon breweries to brew RESIST, a ‘Ukrainian Anti-Imperial Stout’ developed by displaced Ukrainian brewers, with profits donated to the Red Cross. .
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Halewood Group said: “The Halewood Group is 100% opposed to the Russian Army invasion of Ukraine. We have expressed our support to our Ukrainian customers, our largest export market.
“Out of respect for the situation, we have removed all references to the ‘Remarkably Russian’ campaign across all our JJ Whitley communications.”
Moving with immediate effect
Some production will be moved back to J Whitley’s Chirley site with immediate effect, with British-made JJ Whitley Vodka expected to be on the market by the end of March.
“Halewood Artisanal Spirits is a family business founded and headquartered in the UK,” the spokesman added. “The JJ Whitley Distillery in St. Petersburg is 100% owned by Halewood and has no affiliation with the Russian government.”
Founded in 1978, family-owned Halewood owns and manages 11 main distilleries and one craft brewery and distributes to 75 countries, including the UK, South Africa, Canada, Australia, China and Germany.
The company currently employs about 950 people and produces a number of different branded spirits, including Crabbies Alchoholic Ginger Beer, Dead Man’s Fingers Rum, Aber Falls and Liverpool Gin.
Western business have been pulling out of Russia in their droves in response to the invasion, with giants of the fuel industry – including BP, Exxon and Shell – all announcing their departure from the country.
Entertaiment companies like Disney and WarnerMedia have stopped releasing films in Russia, while shipping firms Maersk and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company have halted cargo bookings with the country.
Meanwhile, Brexit red tape has cost food businesses £60m in 2021, as continued shortages of registered veterinarians placed pressure on an industry already stretched thin after the UK’s split from the EU.