David, Ali, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your companies?
David: My name is David Wood and I’m the founder of The Liana Collection. The Liana Collection is a drinks distribution business focusing on independent, sustainable producers. We are a small but ambitious business and really driven by a clear mission statement – to help smaller drinks brands find success in a very competitive market. We are also, and maybe more, focused on driving a more sustainable drinks industry.
Ali: My name is Alastair Jones and I’m the Sales Director for Jim and Tonic, I’ve worked across various parts of the wine and spirits industry over the last 15 years. Jim and Tonic is a distillery, events and bar operator based in Elephant and Castle. We own and operate three bars across London and produce a range of award-winning gins using botanicals sourced from across London.
Both your businesses have a strong focus on sustainability. Which steps should the industry take to make impactful positive changes?
David: The first thing the industry needs to do is come together to educate on what the problem is. Simply put, every element of the supply chain within the drinks industry can either be sustainable or it can be harmful. The simple issue we are producing too much CO2 as an industry, and we need to adopt practices to become as close to Carbon negative as possible.
Ali: We strive to put sustainability at the heart of our business, continually challenging ourselves to do better from our sustainable packaging and labelling to the botanicals we source for our gin. I feel the hospitality industry engages its customers really well, so we have a unique opportunity to lead the conversation on sustainability. We’ve certainly found that there is no silver bullet to reduce our environmental impact, instead we challenge ourselves on every decision we make to ensure that we are doing things as sustainably as possible.
You conceived CHEERS!, a not-for-profit trade show aimed at celebrating independent, sustainable drinks producers. How did you come up with the idea?
David: In the last few years, I have become more and more aware of the impact man is having on climate change and the recent Climate Report published by the IPCC in early August finally showed the world that this is man-made, and action needs to be taken urgently. The idea for Cheers! came about during Covid-19 when sustainability seemed to take a backwards step in people’s minds as businesses fought to survive. We wanted to champion independent brands as they were the most affected by the pandemic.
Ali: David approached us with the idea of a small independent drinks show and we were immediately on board! In our initial conversations discussing the format, we quickly decided that we wanted to put sustainability, an issue at the heart of both our businesses, front and centre. As a small, independent drinks brand we wanted to give the platform to celebrate other like-minded brands.
What are you aiming to achieve with CHEERS!, which will take place on 21st September at Mercato Metropolitano?
David: Cheers! is an event aimed at educating the industry on sustainability but it’s also an event dedicated to championing small, independent brands who have had a particularly hard 18 months. I was in awe of brand’s abilities to pivot and fight to stay alive throughout the pandemic and I hope this is an opportunity for brands to come together and share their experiences. It’s also an opportunity for Bartenders, Buyers and Journalists to come and discover some of the “brands of tomorrow” and we hope the event helps forge some great relationships for the future. We are also going to be having three talks on the day. One from two of the most famous bartenders in the world, Alex Kratena and Monica Berg, one on sustainability in drinks brands and one on the challenges of building independent brands and categories.
Ali: I hope that we can achieve a fun and educational trade event, where the guests can discover some new and exciting independent drinks brands. We are very lucky to have some amazing speakers on the day so hopefully we can discuss the challenges facing our industry and help move things forward.
Why did you choose to support The Drinks Trust by organising this event?
David: It was important to us for this event to be not-for-profit. We want it to be an organic day driven by purpose not money. We have partnered with The Drinks Trust following the exceptional work and support they have given the trade since the beginning of the pandemic. They represent the power of coming together for good which is exactly what we need to do as an industry to fight climate change and start to build for a sustainable future.
Ali: The Drinks Trust do an incredible job of supporting our industry, never more so than over the last 18 incredibly difficult months, so being able to support this important work through CHEERS! was really important to us!