Writing this from the confines of my personal palace but thanks to the internet the world and all its happenings are streamed into it sans delai every minute, every day. Take that away and that’s when the real isolation begins. Here is what I have gathered about how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the drinks industry.
bars have to be shut in areas under lockdown which, right now, covers a big part of the world. It affects the people who work there but then, it also affects people who are associated with the functioning of these spaces. From suppliers of basic articles that are used in these establishments to the manufacturers of the beverages which are sold through here, even the people who drive the trucks that bring them to here, everyone is facing the brunt of it. The worst is far from over because once (and when) we come out of this phase, many of the businesses may not even be around anymore to serve the system thereby breaking down the supply chain in ways that will take months to repair.
Well, even if bars were open, it’s not like they would have had a steady supply of beverages. Ships are anchored at ports and the movement of goods is severely affected and entire shipments of wines and spirits are languishing at docks unattended. While the past month has been a relatively cool one, going ahead, as conditions get warmer, these stocks stand to deteriorate which would incur a further loss to the industry.
Vinexpo managed to take place in Paris but it was quite the deserted wine show. ProWein and London Wine Show were subsequently cancelled. Decanter World Wine Awards have been postponed and the Asian leg of the competition stands cancelled for the moment. Other such events, from Concours Mondial to the World’s Bets Vineyards, are all going the same way. Some events, like the last one mentioned here, may still announce the results (as the voting was already over before the pandemic went global) but most likely it would be done online.
Vineyards in the Southern hemisphere harvest around this time and the lockdown means fewer people at hand to do the job. Luckily viticulture has been classified as an ‘Essential’ activity so people do have the permission to go about their work but in reduce numbers and with strict checks and measures in place. Spare a thought for people who will have to go about the process of making wine while maintaining correct social distance and sanitising hands every ten seconds! The northern hemisphere has had it easier but in California as also in most of Europe and especially in hard-hit countries like Italy, times have been extremely tough with people trying to get activities like tending to the vineyards done on schedule with things being as they are.
A lot of equipment (dry ingredients?) used in the beverage industry are sourced from different parts of the world – from Paper being sourced from South America to labels being printed in a press in China, from French bottles to Portuguese corks. All these supply chains stand affected so even once the bans lift, to get back to normal will be a slow process.
Standing as one of the biggest markets for premium spirits and wines in the world, the shut down of the world’s most populous nation means that business suddenly turned upside down for a lot of brands. Unfortunately, some brands will realise that this “All Eggs in a Basket” strategy might have spelt the death knell for them.