Stock Spirits

Manchester drinks distributor Paragon Brands has taken aim at Diageo, following the global spirits giant’s controversial implementation of new minimum order criteria.

Paragon Brands founder and MD Chris Jones posted on Linkedin that his business was also introducing a new set of ’supply rules’ for wholesalers. The tongue-in-cheek notice came after Diageo raised its minimum order threshold for direct supply to wholesalers to £2m per annum. This level is likely to prevent all bar the 10 biggest UK wholesalers from accessing Diageo brands such as Smirnoff and Gordon’s directly.

Jones’ new rules stated that wholesalers working with Paragon would need to “appreciate good spirits and want to stock an interesting and engaging range” and that “you must want to offer your customers a range of products that offer premium quality and good value”.

He added that wholesalers would have to accept being visited by Paragon’s “professional and often friendly account managers” for whom they would have to make the occasional coffee

The rules added that wholesalers would “have to be willing to accept bespoke promotional support designed to help grow our mutual business” and crucially that they would not have to spend £2m per year.

Paragon Brands launched in 2017 and distributes spirits including Żubrówka vodka and Dingle Distillery Irish whiskey.

“We received a lot of calls in the past 24 hours from disgruntled wholesalers and cash & carrys,” Jones told The Grocer. “For many it was a stab in the back to receive Diageo’s news. 

“The drink industry is still very much a people industry where relationships are key, so taking that approach doesn’t play into any of our values.”

Jones said wholesalers and retailers alike “should celebrate the history of strong relationships instead”.

“Sometimes companies and plcs are quick to forget wholesalers and cash & carrys are the lifeblood of the industry – they kept it afloat during challenging times, for example during the pandemic, and keep achieving great results within the industry,” he added.

“We hugely value the relationships with the people that we build with these channels, and those bonds account for a lot in keeping our industry competitive and value-driven.”