Beergate: NZ diplomats serving foreign brews
"I would say for the next few years we only appoint diplomats who have a taste for the excellent craft beers NZ brews."Featured comment
Jan 19 / UPDATE: David Leishman is a former NZ trade commissioner who left the diplomatic corps to found a company that supplies grog to his former colleagues.
"My business idea to supply diplomatic missions came from my diplomatic experience," Leishman told NBR ONLINE.
"I realised how difficult it was in those days to get New Zealand wine, beer and non alcoholic beverages for both official and personal use in the embassies."
18 years later, GrowBiz International is going strong, supplying NZ wine and beer to our diplomatic missions around the world.
But craft beers are not part of the success story.
"I have tried on numerous occasions to supply craft beers, with little success," Leishman says.
"The simple reason: the craft brewers do not seem to see the promotional value, as their prices can be two or three times higher than the 'mainstream' beers (including Macs and Monteiths).
"Currently all costs of running overseas posts are under the magnifying glass, and beer costs, albeit it minimal, would be no exception.
"Maybe craft brewers wanting a share of this business might look at their prices first, before questioning the efforts of our diplomats."
Jan 18: Beer blogger Neil Miller filed an Official Information Act with John Allen, chief executive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, asking for a list of every New Zealand beer brand served at each New Zealand embassy, high commission or consulate in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
In 89 instances, New Zealand diplomatic posts served no New Zealand beer at all.
In 63 instances, they served only mainstream New Zealand beers.
- In just four instances, the diplomatic posts served New Zealand craft beers. In 2012, the Hong Kong post served Harrington’s, in 2012 Los Angeles procured Moa and in 2011 and 2012 the Washington post also offered Moa.
Mr Miller writes he can understand why our embassy in Saudi Arabia cannot serve a Kiwi craft beer. But what is stopping our diplomatic corps in Sydney and Canberra?
It gets worse
The situation is actually worse than Mr Miller paints.
Moa [NZX:MOA] marketing manager Sunil Unka told NBR ONLINE it was great our diplomatic missions in LA and Washington had served up his company's brew (more so because the craft beer market in North America is booming, as Time magazine relates here).
But he notes it was only three or four times – "a rather small number of occasions in the context of the discussion".
Mr Unka would like to see the embassies and consulates serving more craft beer. Like every other New Zealand brewer, Moa has an obvious self-interest in the matter. But isn't that what our overseas missions should all be about: promoting local product?
While not every market is accessible, "our current major export markets are US, Australia and Asia, including China, so it is certainly a possibility in those locations," the Moa man says.
"It would be great to see the number of events serving NZ beer to increase and more specifically the New Zealand craft beer to increase significantly as we and our fellow craft brewers expand our international markets."
NBR approached Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Murray McCully for comment yesterday.
His office said it was aware of Mr Miller's research. The minister would respond to NBR (I'll post his comments when they come through. It seems he's been tied up with a visit by a chap from the UK or something).
NBR has also asked the head of the diplomatic corp, Mr Allen, for his action plan. He was in a meeting when we called, but we're sure he'll make it a priority to respond today.
By beer o'clock would be good.