Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 16th 2016 Contents BG8 NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JUNE 16 • 2016
The largest beer and brewed beverage
importer in T&T says that the current labeling
laws are archaic given the advances in labeling
John Paul Tannous, managing director of
NWT Enterprises, also said the laws were anti-
competitive toward importers in the local
brewed beverage market.
When the issue of local beverage manufac-
turers facing unfair treatment under the current
Food and Drugs Act became a topic of con-
versation, the natural consequence of that was
that local beverage importers would be pulled
- fairly or not- into this discussion.
In last week s Business Guardian, deputy
chairman of the ANSA McAl group Andrew
Sabga raised concerns about the number of
imported brewed beverages which seemed to
be in contravention of the labeling standards
as set out by the Food and Drugs Act.
NWT Enterprises is the distributor of the
Coors, Blue Moon and Duvel beer brands.
Tannous and Sunil Persad, vice-president
business development, sat down with the Busi-
ness Guardian to discuss the challenges faced
by imported beverage distributors, the lack of
cohesion among the various regulatory and
enforcement bodies in the industry and the
role of the customer in making purchasing
decisions that reflect their right to refuse poorly
Tannous and Persad maintain the view that
the local labeling standards as set forth in the
Food and Drugs Act are out of step with the
international reality for many brewed beverage
"In terms of international labeling standards,
the laws in T&T need revision to what are
modern labeling standards," said Persad.
Asked to explain what can be considered
modern labeling standards, Persad said that
international beer manufacturers produce labels
that are consistent with labeling laws in most
countries around the world.
He said: "While there may be slight variations
from country to country (in labeling require-
ments) international companies produce inter-
national labels that are compliant with most
laws around the world. There are very few, if
any, first world nations where international
brewed beverage manufacturer labeling is not
Focusing specifically on a brand Persad
added: "If you take Coors for example, they
produce labels that are acceptable in the Amer-
icas as well as in Europe. Clearly for a brand
such as Coors to have unimpeded access to
these markets, its labeling must be up to the
highest international standards."
Asked to comment on a situation where the
Coors brand was found to be in contravention
of the local labeling requirement where the
name of the distributor was not printed on
the label, Tannous addressed the situation
directly. He said: " Firstly, our Coors brand
actually carries the "distributed by" information
on the tin. The can in question was a 24 ounce
tin which is a seasonal product that we brought
in and out for two to three weeks and we never
brought it back again. It is not part of our reg-
ular line. Our regular line of Coors products
is compliant with local labeling standards.
"Secondly, there are parallel players in the
market who can import and sell product into
the market that are not authorised distributors.
We ve faced this situation for our products in
the past. When we began distributing the brand
we submitted the necessary paperwork to the
Ministry of Health and were given the relevant
clearances to distribute the brand locally."
Tannous said that it was counterproductive
to the labeling discussion to focus narrowly
on the brewed beverage market.
He said: "The issue of labeling standards is
one that should be discussed across the entire
industry. It cannot be just for beer. It would
be unfair to focus only on the brewed beverage
industry. For the playing field to be level, the
labeling standards need to be applicable to
wine, to scotch, to every type of liquor or bev-
erage, imported or local that consumers have
available for purchase."
Both Tannous and Persad believe that the
current labeling laws in the brewed beverage
industry are anti-competitive and restrict vari-
ety for the consumer in the local beverage mar-
ket.Tannous said: "Our labeling laws act as a
non-tariff barrier to entry. Many of the dis-
tributors are small operations, one-man/two-
man companies that do not have the resources
to compete against larger players in the market
or to do large enough production runs that
would warrant an international supplier to
Questioned about the fact that the Food and
Drug Act provides for after-market stickering
on the imported beer brands, Tannous said
that such stickering is both impractical and
costly given that most international beer brand
labels convey information that is internationally
He said: "Imagine you have a case of beer
that is sealed with glue: You have to open that
case of beer, pull each bottle, sticker it, seal
it back. Having to do that for cases of beer
would be impractical and would add a signif-
icant cost to any operation. If we extend this
conversation beyond beer, would it be practical
to have that done for all the other imported
alcoholic beverages that do not have "distributed
by" in their labeling?"
Going further Tannous added: "The current
law severely restricts any sort of variety in the
market for brewed beverages and is unfair to
importers who are trying to cater to changes
in the tastes and preferences of consumers in
the local beer market."
Questioned about NWT s relationship with
the Chemistry Food and Drug Division (CFDD)
of the Ministry of Health, Tannous said that
his company ensures that it is compliant with
the requirements as it relates to the Food and
Tannous said: "We have a very good rela-
tionship with the CFDD. When we re looking
to launch products we provide them with infor-
mation and try to find out what is required
on the label and sometimes if we need to test
a product, we go to them as well."
When asked if any requests have been made
to have the elements of the Food and Drug
Act that are deemed anti-competitve addressed
by the CFDD, Tannous said that various over-
tures to the CFDD have been made.
"We have spoken to them (CFDD) and we
have vented our concerns about the Act. Treat-
ing with making changes to the current Act
however may go beyond the CFDD."
Asked to whom such requests for amend-
ments could be made, Tannous said that there
is no group that can be lobbied for changes to
the Act as it currently exists.
"The question is who do we lobby? There
is no governing board when it comes to the
brewed beverage industry. If we as an importer
have an issue, and we ve had many issues,
there is no group to whom we can turn to have
our problems addressed."
Tannous said that they have aired their con-
cerns to various players across the state machin-
ery all to no avail. "We ve spoken to the Ministry
of Trade, we ve spoken to the Ministry of
Finance, we ve spoken to many different
departments about a variety of issues but the
fact remains that no state entity has seen this
as a big enough issue to do anything about it."
Both Tannous and Persad believe that the
final say in what gets imported and sold in the
market ultimately belongs to the consumer.
Persad said: "Any consumer picking up a
product has every right to choose whether he
is going to buy that product or not depending
on what s on the label. If a label is incompre-
hensible to the consumer based on the language
it s written in, or lack of information deemed
relevant to that consumer then why are they
buying that product?
"Consumers have a responsibility for what
they choose to consume"
Persad added that across every industry, and
not just the brewed beverage segment, that
this should be the main point of discussion.
He said: "If consumers decide they are not
buying incorrectly labled products this problem
of labeling would effectively cease to exist as
suppliers would not longer have any incentive
to supply such products."
Beer importers hit back...
T&T's labeling laws
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