The drinks giant is thinking of closing Newcastle’s Tyne plant to cut costs but trade union leaders are taking legal advice to determine if this could lead to the removal of the brand’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.
S& N’s application for the mark was granted by the EU in
1996 amid a blaze of publicity and the status, designed to give a guarantee of the brand’s provenance, has prompted a series of marketing campaigns linking the brew to the city.
But lawyers have warned that S&N could face a legal minefield if it moved production because the PGI stipulates the beer must be produced within the city of Newcastle.
Tracey Huxley, an intellectual property lawyer at Shoosmiths, said: “When the beer was awarded PGI status it raised the brand up a level.
“PGI has some importance to consumers and its loss could damage the brand. It also puts S&N in a difficult position if it has to fight anyone using the Newcastle name.”
Speculation about the future of the Tyne brewer has grown after S&N announced last week that it was to close its Fountainbridge brewery in Edinburgh. But trade unions hope the threat of legal problems over Newcastle Brown Ale’s provenance could secure the Tyne bewery’s future.
Graham Eastwood, Transport and General Workers’ Union spokesman, said: “If European legislation says it has to be brewed in Newcastle it gives us a ray of hope because PGI status is not something S&N would want to lose.”
S&N’s head of PR, Nigel Pollard, said: “Newcastle Brown is consumed all over the globe but PGI is not really known outside the UK.”