A drink with… The Global Vodka Alliance

22nd June, 2018 by admin

GVA founders Ben Lindsay, Nik Koster and Henry Hutton on the new organisation’s mission to offer greater transparency in the vodka industry.

The Global Vodka Alliance launched last year

*This feature was originally published in the April 2018 issue of The Spirits Business

What is the GVA about?

BL: With a focus on integrity, innovation and education in vodka, the GVA is calling on the industry to share best practices, knowledge, news and events. The mission is to give consumers a better understanding of how vodka is produced, and through this education, encourage them to try different brands and styles.

NK: The GVA was created out of demand from brands. It started with a mix of trade and consumer events in 2015 under the name Vodka Rocks. Then, following The Vodka Summit in 2017, the overwhelming response was that there needs to be a ‘home’ for vodka, something that pushed forward key values for vodka as a category.

Why does the vodka industry need such an association?

BL: Vodka is a varied, interesting and exciting category – along with being the best­-selling spirit globally – but it isn’t necessarily perceived as being so.

HH: It became apparent that there was nothing out there supporting vodka as a category, providing the education and insight that other spirits were getting.

NK: The vodka industry faces a lot of issues. Globally, these issues differ, but brands aren’t singing from the same hymn sheet so there is no resolution.

Which brands and influencers are part of the GVA?

BL: Peter Steger from Sash & Fritz, William Borrell from Vestal, Florian Renschin from Freimut and Alex Clarke from Babicka have provided their wisdom and expertise. Florian has spent years working on a better way to categorise vodka, and that is how we classify our directory on the GVA website.

NK: Recently I’ve been having conversations with Absolut on its Nothing to Hide campaign. The bigger players in the industry have to get involved for real impact, and the more we grow the more this is happening, which is great. It’s only six months since the official GVA launch and the reaction has been brilliant.

How will the GVA enhance consumer education?

BL: Distillation can be a tricky concept to understand in itself. So (with input from very helpful volunteers) we have produced ‘entry level’ interactive presentations to try to make learning about vodka easier and more enjoyable for consumers. They are all available on the GVA website for free and cover everything from the history of vodka to how to taste different styles.

Will transparency become more common in the vodka industry?

HH: Provenance has become an important part of purchasing decisions. For example, the gin industry has seen the rewards of being honest about ingredients, production methods and brand story. True provenance is about being transparent. As transparency becomes more important to the public, it would be ignorant of vodka to overlook this change in buying behaviour.

NK: Brand transparency is integral to so many areas of food and drink, and if vodka doesn’t adapt it will suffer. We’re trying to get vodka to pick up some tips from categories such as beer and gin. Gins producing hundreds of thousands of bottles per year still call themselves ‘craft’ because they feel comfortable talking about their production.

Nowadays, is there a more supportive and collaborative spirit in vodka?

BL: We wouldn’t be where we are with the GVA if there wasn’t. The response after our launch was amazing. We are asking brands to share information about their processes that they may have previously kept secret.

NK: We’re still facing an uphill battle as the first collaborative vodka body. Brands focus a lot on ‘what other brands are involved’ – it’s not something we usually experience in other categories of drinks. It’s changing, slowly, but it is changing.

What are the GVA’s plans?

BL: We’re still at the beginning of a very long journey. This year is about improving our visibility and education. We already have a sizeable audience through the GVA site and social media channels, and through listening to that audience we can ensure we remain not only relevant, but at the forefront of the vodka conversation.

HH: The GVA needs to continue to grow in its reach and member base, as this will bring more detailed and in-­depth discussion and analysis for the market as a whole.

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