Brewery fuming over competing beverage at whistle stop
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May 10, 2013

Brewery fuming over competing beverage at whistle stop

The Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) has found itself in the middle of a fight over pouring rights for beer, with one of the platinum sponsors for Vincy Mas 2013 alleging that the CDC is in breach of the contract it signed with them.{{more}}

Commercial Manager of the St Vincent Brewery Ltd Shafia London told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, that last Saturday, the brewery was shocked to see prominent branding of a competitor’s product as part of the Leeward end of the whistle stop jump up, which formed part of the launch of Vincy Mas 2013.

London said the brewery has a contract with the CDC, which, according to clause 4.1, gives them “exclusive right to advertise, display and trade St Vincent Brewery Limited products at Victoria Park and at all events associated with Vincy Mas including the launching of Vincy Mas and Miss SVG.”

According to the contract, the promotion or sale of any competing beverage at any of these functions is disallowed.

London said prior to the launch of Vincy Mas, the brewery attempted to get the leeward side of last Saturday’s whistle stop sponsored by its flagship beer Hairoun, but the CDC refused. The brewery was however one of the sponsors of the Windward side of the whistle-stop.

“There was no explanation given, at least, no logical one, and we wrote them telling them that we want to be part of this and they said no,” London said.

She said the Brewery was however assured that no competitive brand was going to be involved on the leeward end of the whistle stop, as this would be against the contract.

A truck prominently branded with Carib beer advertising material was however observed as part of the whistle stop caravan which journeyed from Barrouallie to Kingstown as part of last Saturday’s launch of Vincy Mas.

“Now the CDC has not spoken to the brewery on the matter, they have not apologized to us, they have not given us any explanation, but it is totally unacceptable and a breach of the contract,” London said.

“So the matter is in our attorney’s hands at the moment.”

However Dennis Ambrose, Chairman of the CDC, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that the music truck used for the whistle stops on the leeward side of the island was organized by VC3 and the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) and had no competitive brand to the brewery’s products.

“The music truck that they used …, was only branded with Coreas liquor, there was no Carib on it,” Ambrose said.

Coreas Hazells Inc, another platinum sponsor of Vincy Mas, is the distributor of Carib beer.

Ambrose however said that he saw another truck on the road, branded with Carib paraphernalia.

“I saw the truck myself, and … as far as I know, it was not a part of the whistle stop that was taking place. If Coreas was in that vicinity, it was because they were doing their own promotion.”

The Chairman said the CDC was not aware that the Carib truck would be there.

“If we were aware that there was something like that taking place, we perhaps would have taken some steps to address it,” Ambrose said.

SEARCHLIGHT also raised the fact that one member of the CDC, Ezzie Roberts was seen on the Carib branded truck, wearing a Carib shirt.

“He was not there in the capacity of a CDC board member. Ezzie is the brand manager for Carib. Carib chose to do a promotion on the leeward side at that time,” Ambrose explained.

“It was not a part of the official CDC activity,” he reiterated.

The brewery’s commercial manager said another breach occurred on Saturday, at the official launch ceremony at the Solidarity in Action Car Park in a video, which was shown at the event.

“Another sponsor used the opportunity in the video produced by CDC to advertise a product that is competitive to the Brewery’s beer, and CDC was the one who produced that video,” she said.

According to the terms of the contract, the brewery donates $81,500 in cash to CDC each year, but in addition to that, London said, donations are made to all other components of Vincy Mas.

She disclosed that in 2012, the brewery donated a total of $376,648.70 in cash, to the various components, including mas bands, rural carnivals, pan, shows, calypsos, t-shirt and j’ouvert bands.

They also donated drinks to the value of $82,848.70, London said.

The three-year contract, signed in January 2011 between the brewery and the CDC, comes to an end on May 1, 2014.

“Over the years, our level of sponsorship has been growing, this year, nothing has changed in terms of our commitment to Carnival except growth, yet the value for sponsorship is declining and there is … no logical explanation why,” she stated.

“So, we have requested a meeting with them,” London said.

Joel Providence, Managing Director / CEO of Coreas Hazells Inc told SEARCHLIGHT that his company honoured the request of the CDC not to put any beer products on the VC3/NLA truck.

He said as far as he is aware, the CDC had one event on Saturday, which was the launch at the cark park in Kingstown. He says he does not know that the whistle stop was a CDC event.

Providence, in response to a question posed by SEARCHLIGHT about the brewery’s exclusivity clause said, “In law, you cannot give what you don’t have.”

“The CDC cannot give to the brewery exclusive rights for all events associated with Vincy Mas,” he said.

“You can’t expect to have a monopoly on the … roads of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Providence, who is a former CDC Chairman said.

He however made it clear that he is not in any way maligning the name of the CDC.

He disclosed that this year, Coreas total sponsorship of Vincy Mas has a value of approximately $110,000, which includes two cars for the winners of the calypso and soca monarch competitions, sponsorship of mas bands, a Miss SVG contestant, a calypso tent and contributions to several rural carnival committees.

Providence said despite the fact that Coreas is a major contributor and regarded as a platinum sponsor of Vincy Mas, the company will honour the terms of the agreement the CDC has with the brewery.

We knew the terms… CDC shared the information with us, you can’t sell any competing beer for any CDC show for 2013 and we are going along with it, we are being magnanimous and we will do what we have to do, even though, we are restricted from selling our products at any CDC show. No problem, we will still proceed.

“This will go right through to Carnival. … We are not withdrawing anything, we will continue with our sponsorship.

“We will still do it. I trust there will be a change in 2014,” Providence said.

However CDC Chairman Ambrose confirmed that the sale of Carib beer will be allowed in Victoria Park on the night of the Hitz FM Coreas Soca Swing event, as this show is not a CDC event.

“Victoria Park belongs to the National Lottery. We are only users of the park. If the park is vacant for a particular night, any private promoter could ask to use the park. And once their event does not clash with the CDC event we will endorse it and give them permission and this has been happening for years with Hitz FM.

However London disagrees, and asked how then could the CDC, in the contract, offer them beer pouring rights for something that does not belong to them or for which they have no control?

“I can’t see why the brewery is actually having a problem with that. I really think they need to revisit the contract and get a proper interpretation, that is a private event,” Ambrose said, referring to the Hitz FM Coreas Soca Swing.

London however made it clear that the brewery does not have a problem with Coreas, as Coreas sells their products.

“What we have a problem with is that we have exclusive right to the beer product. If Coreas wants to buy the beer from us, and assures us that the only beer that will be poured during Vincy Mas at any of the CDC events would be Hairoun, we will both be happy, because they are not losing sales and we are not losing value for sponsorship. And that option is available to them.

“What we are saying to [the CDC] is …we have been doing this for over 25 years when nobody else including Coreas was there with them, and it is really dishonorable that this year, they are suddenly cutting our benefits.

“The matter is in our attorney’s hands because we feel it is serious enough to have legal discussions with CDC…

“We are disappointed with the developments. We feel as though we are being cast aside. While we want to encourage all businesses, we want persons to respect contractual agreements,” London said.