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Russian liquor pulled from shelves in response to invasion

(Source: Reuters/Patrick Doyle)

Australia’s largest two liquor retailers have begun destocking Russian vodka from the shelves of retail stores, joining vendors across New Zealand, Canada, the US, and some European markets in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

Coles told Inside Retail that the company took steps to remove Russian products from the shelves of its Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and First Choice stores last night.

“We have engaged with our suppliers on community concerns regarding the sale and distribution of Russian-sourced products, and resolved to remove a number of Russian-sourced drinks from sale,” the spokesperson said. 

“The thoughts of everyone at Coles Liquor are with the people of Ukraine and we hope for a peaceful resolution to the current crisis as soon as possible.”

Rival Endeavour Group confirmed a similar move today, with the removal extending into its hospitality venues as well. 

“Following feedback from a variety of stakeholders, we have decided to remove products of Russian origin from our stores, hotels and online businesses in the coming days,” an Endeavour Group spokesperson told Inside Retail via email.

“As an organisation, Endeavour Group is deeply concerned with the situation in Ukraine and we join the calls for peace.”

Both companies appear concerned about the impact of the move on domestic distributors who are somewhat caught in the middle, potential carrying stock that will be unsaleable. 

Aldi has also confirmed it will remove Russian products from its shelves.

“Any remaining stock of Russian spirits that were available to customers from previous special buys have been pulled from Aldi Australia’s shelves,” an Aldi spokesperson said.

“Additionally, all planned special buys of Russian vodka have been removed for the foreseeable future.”

A ‘growing groundswell of consumer sentiment’

Across the Tasman, The West Auckland Trusts – which owns 26 retail stores along with hospitality venues throughout the area – stopped selling Russian-made products from Tuesday, in response to Russia’s escalating aggression towards Ukraine.

CEO Allan Pollard said the move was a response to Russia raising its nuclear alert level along with “a growing groundswell of consumer sentiment”. 

Products listing Russia as their country of origin including Ivanov, Russian Standard, Russkaya, Kristov Red vodkas, Gorkovskaya Vodka, JJ Whitley Rhubarb Vodka, Royal Bison Vodka, Russkaya Vodka, Baltika Beer and Three Hills Pale Ale beer are all off shelves. 

Rather than being replaced with other products, empty shelf space will display a Ukrainian flag. 

“Vodka is Russia’s most high profile export product and our actions today are designed to show our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” said Pollard.

“While New Zealand is a comparatively small market individually, joining our counterparts in other countries around the world in boycotting the sale of these products is a statement of solidarity for the Ukrainian people.”

Reuters has reported that Canadian liquor stores are removing Russian vodka and other  Russian made alcoholic beverages from their shelves in an act of condemnation over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Liquor stores in the provinces of Manitoba and Newfoundland said they were removing Russian spirits, while Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, also directed the Liquor Control Board Of Ontario to withdraw all Russian products. In Ontario alone, the move covers 679 stores. 

Canada imported US$3.78 million worth of alcoholic beverages from Russia last year, according to Statistics Canada data. Vodka is the second most popular spirit among Canadian consumers after whisky, Statscan said.

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