Welcome to the ninth instalment of Scran & sIPs® - the spring ’23 edition of the quarterly publication by Marks & Clerk that focuses on Intellectual Property and the Scottish Food and Drink industry.
In this edition, Jason talks about Geographical Indications following on from his appearance on the Sunday with Michael Portillo show; Kirsten Gilbert looks at the recent High Court decision involving Tesco and Lidl, and the dispute around the use of a yellow circle; Erik Rõuk and our colleagues in Singapore provide an overview of the Singaporean trade mark system; we talk to renowned whisky expert, Blair Bowman; Iain Baxter, CEO of Scotland Food & Drink, provides us with some fascinating insights into the Scottish food and drink industry; S’wheat co-founder Jake Elliott-Hook talks to us about the world’s first reusable bottle made from plant-based materials and winning the Net Zero category at Scottish EDGE R20; Chloe Mullen, co-founder of Jorum Studio, discusses their new whisky-inspired fragrance; we speak to Kate Appleby about her inspiring women; and we meet our Clients & Markets Executive, Shannon Robb.
It has been an eventful few months for the Scotland Team. Firstly, a huge thank you to The Borders Distillery for being our shirt sponsor for the Business Fives Football Tournament in March. We raised over £600 for Four Square (Scotland), which supports people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Everyone had a great time, despite losing every game. We had better fortunes in the 2023 Scottish CITMA Quiz with our team winning the first annual quiz since the pandemic.
Our Food & Drink Team have been on the road and spent three days exhibiting at the Food & Drink Expo in Birmingham last month.It was great to see a strong showing from Scottish F&D businesses and to bump into clients, friends and colleagues.
A team of practitioners from our UK and overseas offices will be visiting Singapore this month for the 145th annual INTA Conference, which will take place between 16 to 20 May. I will be joined by some other members of our National Food & Drink Team to meet with clients and contacts from all over the world. Details of the team attending can be found here: INTA 2023, as well as a travel guide that our Singapore team have kindly put together for those attending. Please get in touch if you would like to arrange a meeting.
Could you tell us about how your idea to develop a plant-based water bottle came about, and your journey as a business?
It’s no secret, the reusable water bottle market is extremely saturated, perhaps one of the most oversaturated markets there is, and besides design there is very little variation in product offerings.
Consumers only have three choices: plastic, steel & glass, all of which have their downsides, from leaching chemicals from plastic, to high energy intensive manufacturing processes, consumers have been limited in choice. We wanted to create a truly sustainable water bottle that offsets more carbon than it creates, with circularity and practicality in mind. That’s why we created the S’wheat Bottle, made from sustainable plant-based materials.
In particular, what prompted the use of wheat straw as a core ingredient for the bottle?
We went through a lengthy development process trying all sorts of crazy plant materials. We decided to go with wheat straw as it's naturally antibacterial and is also a by-product in the UK which fits perfectly with our sustainability credentials and circular supply chain.
A huge congratulations on winning the Net Zero EDGE award, what kind of impact has winning the award had on your business?
It was a great experience being part of the Scottish EDGE competition and we’re incredibly grateful to have been awarded a top prize award. Besides the amazing exposure from the competition, the award is going to really help support us with our plans for this year.
There are clear environmental incentives to using an eco-friendly water bottle, could you tell us a little bit about this?
Single-use plastics are one of the largest pollutants there is, and it isn't just affecting the oceans, it's affecting humans directly. When plastics end up in landfills, they aren’t harmless. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate soil and waterways and ultimately enter our food chain when animals accidentally ingest them.
So swapping to a reusable water bottle is extremely important, but why an eco-friendly bottle? Producing plastic, steel & glass bottles requires a significant amount of energy, including the extraction and processing of raw materials, transportation, and manufacturing. Some steel bottles can take up to as much as 17kg of carbon to create just one bottle! So having both a long-lasting and truly sustainable carbon neutral bottle is extremely importantly.
For example, how does it reduce your carbon footprint, and what effect does it have on plastic consumption?
In terms of plastic consumption, using a reusable bottle can have a significant impact. Each year, millions of plastic bottles are produced and sold, and many of them end up in landfills or the ocean. By using a reusable bottle, you eliminate the need for purchasing and disposing of single-use plastic bottles. This reduces the amount of plastic waste generated and helps to mitigate the negative impact of plastic on the environment. By making the switch to a reusable bottle, you can make a positive contribution to sustainability efforts and help protect the environment for future generations.
Reusable water bottles are growing significantly in both usage and popularity, what separates the S’wheat bottle from other brands?
At S’wheat Bottle we pride ourselves on creating a truly sustainable and circular reusable bottle. Our bottles are made from naturally grown plant-based materials, and, as a certified social enterprise, with every purchase we plant a trackable tree in areas where deforestation is worst - you can even monitor the growth of your tree over its lifetime and see exactly where we’ve planted it.
It is evident that environmental consciousness is at the heart of your business – what more could be done by businesses to promote sustainable practices?
Businesses can implement sustainable practices throughout their operations, such as reducing energy and water consumption, using eco-friendly packaging, and implementing a waste management system that prioritises recycling and composting.
S'wheat Q&A (cont'd)
I also believe that businesses can do a better job in educating their employees and customers about the importance of sustainability and encouraging them to adopt sustainable practices.
You have had an incredible amount of success over the last few years, do you have any advice for aspiring start-ups?
Don't be afraid to make mistakes, get out of your comfort zone and don’t give up, staying consistent is key.
What you can offer businesses who are interested?
We offer co-branding to businesses where they can have their logo added to the S’wheat bottle, and with every bottle purchased we plant an equal number of trackable trees in their business' name. This works great for engaging employees, clients gifts or for eco-friendly event handouts.
Looking ahead, what does the future have in store for S’wheat?
We have really big plans for this year and we’re really excited to announce what’s to come! But for now, its top secret.
Finally, as the year moves towards the warmer months, what summery drink will we find you drinking out of your S’wheat bottle?
I'm very excited for the summer, being based in Scotland you really do miss the sunshine this time of year. Lately I’ve been obsessed with juicing all sorts of fruits and vegetables, so you’ll definitely find me with some sort of fruit concoction in my S’wheat Bottle!
It is always a pleasure to chat with leading whisky expert, Blair Bowman. Blair is an independent whisky consultant, broker, commentator, writer and the founder of World Whisky Day. He is a regional food tourism ambassador for Scotland Food & Drink, one of the Spear’s 500 top recommended whisky advisors, and was awarded Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky, Scotland Communicator of the Year 2022. A key element of Blair’s business is sourcing old, luxury and rare casks and bottles for private clients around the world. Blair has also become a prominent voice within the Scottish drinks industry against the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) in its current form and has created a community for hundreds of businesses who are concerned about the negative impact of the scheme.
Blair, your passion for making whisky accessible is clear, but what specifically made you fall in love with the tipple?
I fell in love with whisky when I co-founded a whisky society at the University of Aberdeen in my Freshers' Week. I think I really got the 'bug' for it when I learned that all single malt whiskies in Scotland are made from just three ingredients: water, malted barley and yeast.
It blew my mind that all of these whiskies made in Scotland, which all use the same three ingredients and same production process, can end up tasting so distinctly different. From delicate, sweet and fruity whiskies to fiery, smoky and oily whiskies and everything in between. I think this was what piqued my interest and I wanted to learn as much as I could about how they could end up tasting so different. That was in 2008 and I'm still on a learning journey!
You have gone to - what some may call - extreme lengths to ensure that you can always appreciate every aspect of whisky and not lose any of the great taste or smell by living under a self-imposed lockdown, how has this impacted your role as a whisky consultant? Surely one of the most attractive parts of your role, and the best parts of whisky, is being able to enjoy it with friends both old and new?
Yes, I have taken measures to ensure that I do not lose my sense of taste or smell, which is so crucial to my work in the whisky industry. I specialise in sourcing and assessing old and rare casks of whisky for private clients around the world as well as assessing cask samples for distilleries, among other whisky related projects.
While it is true that being able to enjoy whisky with friends both old and new, and traveling to interesting, far-flung locations are some highlights of my job, I believe that my health, as well as the safety of those around me, is paramount. Covid-19 is still very much a global pandemic, and the long-term risks associated with repeated infections, particularly the loss of sense of taste and smell are not yet clear.
As a result, I have chosen to operate on a virtual-only basis. While this may impact my ability to enjoy whisky with others in person, I have found other ways to continue my work as a whisky consultant, such as virtual tastings and consultations over Zoom with clients all over the world. Thankfully this has not impacted my business which has seen enormous growth since the start of the pandemic. Ultimately, my top priority is to keep myself and others safe, while still sharing my knowledge and passion for whisky with the world. It just means that, until then, I have plenty to look forward to in the future when I do return to doing things in-person.
Blair Bowman Q&A (cont'd)
World Whisky Day is taking place this year on the 20th May. Beyond your passion for whisky and making it a shared, enjoyable experience for everyone, what inspired you to establish the day?
As the founder of World Whisky Day, I was actually inspired by World Gin Day and immediately bought the domain name WorldWhiskyDay.com. Despite it being such a beloved and iconic spirit, I noticed that other drinks, such as gin, beer and vodka, had their own dedicated day, and I felt that it was only right that whisky should have one too. I wanted to create a day that celebrated the rich history and diversity of whisky, in an inclusive way which brought together whisky lovers from all over the world to share in their passion for this incredible spirit.
Beyond my personal passion for whisky, I believe that World Whisky Day has become a platform for promoting the industry and showcasing the incredible range of whiskies available from all over the world. It's a day to celebrate, to explore, and to share the joy of whisky with others.
How will you be marking WWD this year?
World Whisky Day is always a very busy day for me, and I look forward to celebrating with whisky lovers from all over the world. Whether through virtual tastings, online events, or other creative ways.
The whisky industry is built on heritage, with many of the distilling techniques handed down from generation to generation as a result many firms have sought to protect their ‘trade distilling secrets’. How important, in your opinion, is it that distillers protect their secrets?
In my experience, the whisky industry is actually quite open and collaborative, and many distilleries are willing to share their knowledge and techniques with others in the industry. While there may be some firms that seek to protect their trade secrets, I believe that there is a strong tradition of sharing information and expertise in the whisky industry.
In fact, many distilleries regularly welcome visitors from other distilleries to share insights and ideas, and there is a strong sense of community and camaraderie among whisky makers. I think this is one of the reasons why the whisky industry has been able to thrive and innovate over the years, and why we continue to see new and exciting whiskies being produced all the time.
Ultimately, I believe that sharing knowledge and expertise is crucial to the continued success of the whisky industry, and that the spirit of collaboration is what makes whisky such a special and unique drink.
Adding to that, branding is a key part of helping whisky brands differentiate themselves, and producers must ensure they have the right trade marks in place to protect their brand. Which brands do you think stand out right now? Have you any favourites?
I have been very impressed by the branding efforts of many of the new distilleries that have emerged in Scotland in recent years. These distilleries have put a great deal of effort into developing unique and distinctive brands, and many have gone as far as creating custom glass bottles to help protect their intellectual property.
Lindores Abbey Distillery and Isle of Raasay Distillery are just a couple of examples of distilleries that have done a fantastic job with their branding and packaging. Of course, there are many other great whisky brands out there as well, and it can be difficult to pick favourites. For me, it's more about the individual whiskies themselves and the unique flavours and characteristics of that specific bottling. Whether it's a classic whisky like a Talisker or a newer offering from a smaller distillery like Nc'Nean, there are always new and exciting whiskies to discover and enjoy.
Blair Bowman Q&A (cont'd)
You’ve recently spoken out about the Scottish Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), and it has been recently announced that it may be blocked by the United Kingdom Internal Market Act (UKIMA). What could the consequences of the DRS be for the Scottish whisky industry, as well as the wider drinks sector?
As someone who is deeply invested in the Scottish drinks industry, I am very concerned about the potential consequences of the proposed Scottish Deposit Return Scheme (DRS). While we all want Scotland to have a successful DRS, the scheme being forced on businesses is completely unworkable and has significant fundamental flaws, UKIMA being just one of several that have not been fully worked out.
If this reckless DRS is forced ahead, the impact could be significant for the whisky industry and the wider drinks sector. I suspect that several whisky brands will opt to stop selling in Scotland and become export-only businesses. The costs involved in becoming compliant are enormous for SMEs and it will put many fantastic smaller breweries and drinks companies out of business. On top of this, only 15% of drinks producers have currently signed up to the flawed DRS, so there is a strong chance that consumer choice will be ruined in Scotland as only registered drinks are allowed to be sold when it goes live.
Given the potential negative consequences of this scheme, I believe that it is important for the government to take a step back and work with businesses to develop a more practical and workable solution that will not harm the industry or consumer choice.
There has been a lot of pressure on many industries to ensure they are meeting sustainability targets.
Do you believe the food and drink industry is doing enough to embrace the shift?
There is always more that can be done, and the whisky industry is no exception. The whisky industry is already taking steps to reach net zero by 2040, which is an ambitious goal. There are many initiatives underway, such as using renewable energy sources, reducing water usage, and implementing sustainable farming practices for the grains used in whisky production. It's important that we continue to focus on sustainability and make it a priority in the industry.
Do you think distillers are embracing innovation enough to help make processes greener?
Many distillers are embracing innovation and investing in new technologies to reduce their environmental impact. For example, some distilleries are using renewable energy sources, such as biomass boilers or solar panels. Others are exploring ways to reuse waste products, such as spent grains or water, in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Additionally, some distillers are experimenting with new techniques throughout the production process in order to reduce their energy consumption. Overall, I believe the whisky industry is taking sustainability seriously and is actively working to make its processes greener, with many now achieving B-Corp status and various sustainability awards.
Now this is a question we like to ask everyone, but given your role, we think this might be a tricky one for you! If you can only choose one dram to enjoy this WWD, what are you having?
I would choose Johnnie Walker Black Label because it is consistently excellent. During my travels before the pandemic, I could always rely on finding a bottle of it in every hotel bar around the world. It gave me a sense of familiarity and comfort, when in a far-flung location and especially when I was unsure about the local beers or wines. I could enjoy it neat, on the rocks, or even in a refreshing highball in hot climates. So if the weather is nice on WWD I'll probably have myself a Johnnie Walker Black Label highball.
Jorum Studio is a relatively new brand. What was your inspiration for establishing the business?
We launched Jorum Studio in 2019 after working with some of the biggest names in fragrance, beauty and beverages.
Our perfumer Euan McCall is the only Scottish Master Perfumer, so his desire to set up the business in Scotland was more to show the world that Scotland also has a world class fragrance offering. Almost every country on the planet has at least one perfume brand and that was lacking here in Scotland.
Furthermore, we have worked on many projects over the years but have also created for our own enjoyment. Over time we started identifying gaps in the current market and how our unique perfum- making sensibilities could fill some of these gaps. It was clear to us that it wasn't really a case of 'should we launch a new perfume brand' and more 'we need to launch Jorum Studio'.
As a start-up, what challenges have you had to overcome to get your business running on all casks?
A lot of our challenges were experienced as a result of Brexit, the Pandemic, and the continued fallout from these macro world events; and thankfully these hit us in quick succession. We rely on a diversified global supply chain and almost every input raw material was negatively impacted due to both Brexit and the Pandemic.
Other challenges are probably the same as almost any start-up: workforce and cashflow. Our product is in really high demand which is great but as the end-to-end manufacturer, we need to have skilled staff and the finances to purchase thousands of raw materials ahead of the physical manufacture.
Beyond this, our product needs to age for a few weeks before it can be bottled and sold, so we need to keep an eye on cash flow so we can navigate supply chains, keep inventory and build in time so as not to run out of cash when inventory is in the crucial 'ageing' stage.
As a Scottish brand, it maybe isn’t surprising that you decided to produce a whisky-inspired fragrance, but what moved you particularly towards the scent of the barrels?
Our in-house perfumer and founder has worked on many whisky-related projects and has always had a fascination with the complex chemistry of whisky, from cereal and processing to distillation and barrel ageing. In whisky-making the conditioning and origin of the barrel is such an important part of the end product.
Most brands focus on the end product when presenting a whisky-inspired perfume, but none focus on the process. Our perfumer had an interesting experience and conversation with a whisky maker some years ago whereby the cellar master prompted him to put his head inside an empty, used barrel - the aroma sparked something.
Jorum Studio Q&A (cont'd)
You create fragrances that aim to tell a story through scent, what story would you say Spiritcask is trying to tell?
Spiritcask is the story of transformation and how surroundings and circumstances can positively impact. A 'new-make' spirit is added to the cask where a transformation begins, the end product is more complex, interesting and arguably better after ageing in the cask. More directly, Spiritcask presents the wearer with a new take on several profiles - it is a new presentation for a whisky-style fragrance, a wood type, a vanilla type and even a leather type perfume.
Spiritcask isn’t the first whisky-related fragrance you’ve produced, what distinguishes it from your previous ventures into the Scotch-scent scene?
We have a few fragrances that more than nod towards Scotch: Arborist is more atmospheric and tells the story of being close to a Distillery (and the malting aromas) observed from the Scottish woodland. Our perfume Carduus is described by many as 'Scotland in a bottle' and has a really smooth, sophisticated dark chocolate, honey and anise character with lots of woods and spices and does a good job at emulating malts. Firewater is from our Scottish Odyssey collection alongside Spiritcask, however Firewater is heavy on smoke and maritime aromas, and is inspired by the corryvreckan whirlpool off the coast of Jura and Islay, so it is thick with peaty aromas and saline tangy citrus.
Spiritcask really is more a story of wood and the unique impact the cask has on spirits. Furthermore, we were somewhat intentionally vague on the spirit in question, as any barrel-aged spirit is transformed when stored and aged in wooden casks.
Smaller, independent breweries have started to appear more over the last few years. Do you think this could be a trend that will follow for the perfume industry in Scotland – might we see more independent perfumeries appear on the market?
Probably. It takes years to train as a perfumer to a competent level and the resources needed for the analytical side of the operation require serious capital expenditure and know-how so as to comply with regulations. So, there is a huge knowledge and investment requirement to operate seriously, that a brewery may not require, with a slower return than a brewery may experience.
Furthermore, beers and spirits are FMCG's (Fast Moving Consumer Goods), while perfumes are luxury products and it's a ruthless global market. You can raise more money quicker if you want to start a brewery and hire in knowledgeable staff and have a strong revenue stream to support hyperlocal and domestic growth.
We started our business with over £250k of our own money and have reinvested nearly £500k in addition over the past 3 years, with our growth moving at a slower pace than many investors may be comfortable with but ultimately, that is what is required.
Time on the market (coupled with continued innovation) is a key and hidden resource requirement when building credibility in the luxury space. Most of our clients have taken 9 years to become scaling operators and our clients represent a cross-section of the industry and across all levels of sophistication.
We were acutely aware that our business would need a decade to mature and another decade to make really significant gains in terms of market and financial return. However, the rewards certainly outweigh the risks – we were profitable in year two and have reported greater returns year-on-year, penetrating new international markets frequently.
Jorum Studio Q&A (cont'd)
So, any future Scottish operator in this space should be aware that the fundamentals are integrity and authenticity, but to do this competitively requires significant capital and perseverance - it isn't as 'easy' as setting up or scaling a brewery with a thirsty demographic - excuse the pun!
Making whisky is an intricate and refined process, unique to every distillery, how much has that inspired the production of your fragrances?
The whisky-making process and the processes at each distillery and blending house are constant inspirations for us. Whisky is made from the same basic raw materials yet the finished product is so much more. There is the impact of terroir, process, equipment, the distillers skill and expression, the virgin new-make and then the cask selection - these all impact the end result. This same attention to detail is echoed in our own operations and systems.
Before we manufacture, every product is created in-house, so we have complete creative control. Our perfumer creates everything in-house, travels to source raw materials and assesses their quality, manufactures the master batches and oversees the maturation, maceration, filtering and bottling. This ensures the quality of every batch of product we make.
Every decision regarding the fragrance and its production is handled by our in-house perfumer with quality being the focus.
And with that in mind – what have you put in place to ensure that the things that make your brand unique are adequately protected?
We are aware that there are little to no protections for any fragrance product, hence why there is a market for duplicates that is growing stronger. Every perfumer knows this.
We protect our product through the quality of our idea, the raw material selection and by not cutting any corners in production.
Our products could be imitated to a certain degree but an imitator could not produce a very accurate copy of our perfumes as they would need to know the source and specifics of our raw materials which is crucial and furthermore, an analysis would often misinterpret complex naturals or the multiple trace levels of intentionally dosed raw materials that we use to help conceal our formulations when under laboratory analysis.
Beyond the technical formulation protections that we deploy, we also have brand protections in place.
And finally, as someone who clearly appreciates their whisky, what is your favourite way to drink it – neat, with water or on the rocks?
That really depends on the whisky!! Most of the time it is neat, some drams seem to open up with a little with dash of water but I have never been that keen on adding ice as I don't like how it continues to dilute in an uncontrolled manner over the drinking experience (and I prefer to savour rather than down it!).