Appears to me that Government website has markedly toned down the plastering of the “Get Ready for Brexit” campaign on every page. Less emphasis on the date. On actual pages “UK could still leave on October 31st”.
Civil service quick off mark.
The boss of Lego has said the toymaker is working with UK retailers to “make sure they have enough stock” this Christmas in case of a no-deal Brexit.
And at a time when rival toymakers are struggling, the family-owned firm said it planned to open 160 new stores this year globally – 16 of them in the UK.
Eighty of the shops will be in China, with the Danish firm on track to have 140 stores in the country by the end of 2019.
Asked if he was concerned about a recent slowdown in China’s economy, driven by Beijing’s trade war with Washington, Mr Christiansen said he still saw the country as a growth market.
“We have been helped by the fact that we produce our products around the world close to where the demand is, so for China we produce in Asia,” he said.
“There are also many Chinese kids that don’t know Lego and whose parents don’t know Lego, so we see a real opportunity there.”
Despite this, the firm has come up against a wave of counterfeit Lego products in China which Mr Christiansen admitted had been challenging.
Copycat brands have even made their way to the UK, although Mr Christiansen said the Chinese authorities were getting tougher on the practice.
“There have been some court rulings in our favour in China, so we do see an element of progress.”
Lego has committed to use only sustainable materials in its core products and packaging by 2030 amid rising concerns about plastic waste.
And last year it launched its first ever Lego products made from polyethylene, a type of plastic derived from sugar cane, to replace materials sourced from fossil fuels.
The products only represent 1-2% of the total amount of plastic produced by Lego – leading some to question how committed the firm was to its 2030 goal.
But Mr Christiansen stressed that Lego bricks were durable, not “single use” plastics and rarely thrown away. “Our bricks are sometimes kept for 40-60 years,” he said.
Despite this, he said the firm was investing heavily in finding durable yet sustainable alternatives.
“The safety and durability of blocks is not trivial, and we are looking for the right materials.”
The government has changed the wording of its Get Ready for Brexit campaign appearing to suggest a no-deal exit on the 31 October is now less likely.
The wording has been altered from earlier this month, when it said: “The UK is due to leave on 31 October.”
The tweak comes after MPs backed a move to delay approval of the deal. The government has insisted it will still meet the 31 October deadline.
It has vowed to press ahead with the legislation – the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) – to implement the Brexit deal next week.
But the BBC economic’s editor Faisal Islam tweeted that the wording on the government’s “Get Ready for Brexit” website had been “markedly toned down” with “less emphasis on the date”.
Prominent logos on the website saying “Brexit 31 October” also appear to have been removed.
Faisal said the wording also indicated preparation for 31 October was for the possibility of “no deal” rather than Brexit generally.
The campaign, aimed at preparing businesses and the public for leaving the European Union, has previously been criticised by members of the public arguing the ads are inaccurate for implying the UK will definitely leave on that date.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said last month it would not investigate the ads, saying the 31 October departure date was the “date that has been declared by the government”.
“This therefore currently remains the default date that the public will consider as the official ‘leave’ date for the UK, as agreed with the EU, last autumn,” the ASA said in September.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal Brexit planning, told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday the government now planned to step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, including triggering its “Operation Yellowhammer” contingency plans.
“The risk of leaving without a deal has actually increased because we cannot guarantee that the European Council will grant an extension,” he said.
The information campaign urging the public and businesses to “get ready for Brexit” was launched in early September.
The campaign is reported to have cost the government £100m and has run on billboards as well as in social media adverts and on TV.
The days of lime and soda are over. “Sugary, carbonated or fruit-based juice drinks just won’t do” for those seeking a booze-free alternative.
At least, that is the view of Seedlip, which claims to be making the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits.
“We exist to solve this dilemma. What do you drink when you’re not drinking?” says Ben Branson, founder of the Chilterns-based business.
It is a conundrum that traditional drinks firms are also trying to crack.
Diageo, the world’s largest spirits maker, has just bought most of Seedlip. And industry experts say it is not alone in trying to find ways to tap into the non-alcohol sector.
Rival Pernod Ricard, for instance, has done a deal to distribute non-alcoholic spirit Ceder and last month launched Celtic Soul, a non-alcohol blend of dark spirits.
Two years ago, Campari launched Crodino in the UK, its non-alcoholic aperitif named after a small town in north-west Italy.
The firm says Crodino is the most-consumed drink of its kind in Italy since first being produced 55 years ago.
Nico von Stackelberg, analyst at Liberum, says: “There’s a significant rise in alcohol-free drinking across the western world, including the US. In terms of economics, it absolutely makes sense to be involved.
“Younger people do not want to be seen as drunk on social media. Heavy episodic drinking is not deemed to be cool. Importantly, the industry does not want excessive consumption and spends millions to avoid such behaviour,” he adds.
Research shows that the young are drinking less. A report in the medical journal BMC Public Health and carried out by University College London showed that the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds who do not drink alcohol has increased from 18% in 2005 to 29% in 2015.
It points out that it is difficult to pinpoint a single factor that has caused the decline in alcohol consumption.
But it is not a just a UK phenomenon. The research showed a fall in drinking in North America and elsewhere in Europe, although in Canada, rates of binge-drinking increased from 1996 to 2013. In the UK, while rates are falling, young people remain the most likely group to be binge-drinking
Dr Linda Ng Fat, lead author of the study, told the BBC that the findings suggested cultural change was leading to a reduction in drinking, and that health reasons could also be a factor.
Alex Smith, consumer industry analyst at Shore Capital, says the push into the non-alcohol sector is consumer-led. “Younger people are consuming less alcohol, so alcohol companies have to hedge their bets”.
The beer market has been offering non-alcoholic versions for some time. In the 1980s, Kaliber from Guinness was one of the best-known, but more and more are being launched, such as Heineken 0.0% and Budweiser Prohibition Brew.
The number of products on offer is growing. According to Nielsen research there were 40 non-alcoholic brands on the market two years ago. That has risen to 65 brands this year.
Seedlip’s founder, Mr Branson, has said his own inspiration to create a non-alcoholic sprit came after he was given a “sickly sweet pink mocktail”. After experimentation on his family’s farm, he launched his venture in 2015.
He began using a small copper still and herbs from his garden to create a distilled non-alcoholic spirit – not a gin, as that would require juniper.
There are three blends: one based on peas, another on bark and citrus, and another on orange, lemongrass and ginger.
Source: Nielsen Scantrack (June 2018 – June 2019)
Diageo has put Seedlip in its so-called Reserve portfolio – its luxury division – and the recommended retail price for 70cl is £27.99. That’s about £7 more than the same amount of Bombay Sapphire gin.
One pub chain offers Seedlip Grove – one of its three variants – for £4.95, which is £1 more than other non-alcohol cocktails on its menu, while a glass of coke is £3.05. An alcoholic cocktail – a mojito – is £8.50.
Gemma Cooper, Nielsen client business partner, says shoppers are prepared to “pay more for great-tasting alcohol-free alternatives”.
There is no duty or tax on such products, so profits should be higher too.
Seedlip is the first non-alcoholic investment by Distill, an investment vehicle supported by Diageo which backs start-ups and has put more than £60m into 15 different new products.
Diageo has also created its own non-alcohol products in-house, such as Gordon’s low-alcohol gin, launched in 2018, and Malta Guinness, a non-alcoholic unfermented beer popular in Nigeria.
It does not provide a breakdown of sales and profits from non-alcohol products, nor has it disclosed how much it paid for its majority stake in Seedlip, which lost £4m in the year to May 2018, according to accounts at Companies House.
But Diageo’s John Kennedy has described it as a “game-changing brand in the one of the most exciting categories in our industry”.
The drinks company has also said that is “tracking what is happening” – though not yet expanding – in another industry that might take sales away from alcohol: the decriminalisation of cannabis.