Held at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay, the Welsh Beer Strategy and Welsh Spirits Strategy were designed to help businesses from across the drinks industry meet ongoing challenges such as the cost of living crisis and spiralling energy, supply chain and raw material costs.
The two strategies were developed by leading industry figures from the brewing and distilling sectors, with support from the Food & Drink Wales Drinks Cluster. The Welsh Government and Food & Drink Wales also provided input.
Themes identified as being critical for the future success of both industries include
Increasing the level of Welsh product in the on and off-trade, boosting their tourism offering through brewery and distillery tours, increasing exports, upskilling the workforce to help drive knowledge transfer and innovation, along with closer collaborations across the supply chain to help with efficiencies and cost savings were all identified as ways in which both industries could drive future success.
An evaluation of the two strategies has been scheduled for the summer of 2026.
In 2023, the Welsh drinks sector delivered a turnover of more than £820m, with beer and cider accounting for £212m and spirits a further £241m. Overall, the drinks industry is the fourth biggest food sector in Wales and employs 1,200, trailing behind only red meat, dairy and bakery.
Meanwhile, Single Malt Welsh Whisky was awarded Protected Geographical Indication status in 2023, joining the likes of Scotch Whisky by being recognised for its unique flavour and tradition.
'Beer and spirit production is highly valuable to Welsh economy'
Commenting on the two strategies, minister for rural affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd (leader of the senate), Lesley Griffiths said she was grateful to have seen first-hand evidence of the “ambition and willingness to collaborate” among brewers and distillers situated across the country.
“The strategies will help drive wider benefits, such as boosting tourism across the country,” continued Griffiths.
“Both beer and spirit production are highly valuable to the Welsh economy, and a thriving drinks sector is vital to a successful food and drink industry, and will help raise its profile overseas.”
The beer and spirits sectors have suffered from unprecedented disruption and volatility in the past few years, but they remain important employers and revenue drivers. Currently, there are 60 established brewers in Wales, in addition to 63 smaller enterprises, and 53 spirits producers.
One such brewer is Richard Lever of Magic Dragon Brewing, who believes that the new beer strategy provides businesses with a “clear vision” of how the sector can develop over the next few years, while also highlighting “the areas we need to focus on to create a profitable and sustainable brewing industry”.
“We can see that people are prepared to pay a premium for a quality product, and we are blessed in Wales to have so many breweries who take pride in their product and are prepared to work collaboratively with each other to help drive the industry forward,” added Lever.
Speaking of his hopes for the Welsh spirits industry, Chris Leeke of Hensol Castle Distillery commented: “We want to be at the forefront of a thriving industry, and the Welsh Spirits Strategy will help us achieve this.
“Our vision is to be recognised for the quality of our product, which will help us compete in both local and global markets. Many of us want to capitalise on export opportunities, which can only help raise the profile of our food and drink industry overseas.
“We hope we can continue to build our profile and show consumers that by choosing Welsh, they are getting a product full to the brim with quality and provenance.”
In other news, Wrexham Lager, Hive Mind Mead and Drop Bear Beer Co all reflected on the state of the Welsh drinks industry during exclusive interviews with Food Manufacture at trade show TasteWales / BlasCymru, held in October 2023.