Russian vodka on the rocks in Europe – POLITICO

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European countries and supermarket chains have started banning Russian vodka to show their disgust at Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Government-controlled alcohol monopolies in Finland and Sweden were the first to ban alcohol from Russia on Monday, followed by Norwegian authorities on Tuesday.

Major supermarket brands in the three Baltic states, including Top! and Elvi in ​​Latvia, Coop and Rimi in Estonia, and Norfa and Maxima in Lithuania – also banned Russian vodka and went further by banning all products from Russia.

A historic liquor store in Rome, Bernabéi, suspended all sales of Russian-made alcohol despite claiming they accounted for 25% of its revenue. In the UK, the owner of the Nightcap bar chain has announced that it will also boycott Russian alcohol.

But European consumers of the iconic Russian drink – who in Ivan the Terrible’s day accounted for a third of the country’s total income – now mainly drink vodka produced elsewhere. Russian brands account for just 3% of all vodka consumption in Europe, according to market analysis firm IWSR.

“Boycotts of Russian vodka brands will have a fairly minimal impact on Russian vodka producers,” said Emily Neill, COO of IWSR. “Therefore, any significant impact is more likely to be symbolic.”

The UK, Germany and Latvia are the biggest importers of Russian vodka in the world – totaling $50.2 million – a paltry figure compared to the €6.8 billion worth of vodka consumed in total by EU citizens in 2020.

Moreover, Russia can no longer claim a vodka monopoly. European countries like Poland, Sweden and Finland legally protect their vodka production with geographical indicators.

Many major vodka brands, including Smirnoff and Żubrówka, are also produced entirely outside of Russia. In 2020, Sweden and France were the biggest exporters of vodka, while Russian exports of this drink accounted for only 8.3% of the world total.

“What few people know is that the EU has a very rich tradition of vodka production,” said a spokesperson for Spirits EUROPE, which represents 11 major spirits companies in 24 EU states. .

“I think it is very important to emphasize that not all vodka is by definition Russian.”

The move by European countries follows restrictions on sales of Russian-made and branded vodkas by governors of 10 U.S. states last week.

POLITICO contacted the British and German governments, where Russian-made vodka is most popular, to ask if they were also considering banning the drink, but received no response.

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