Swedish politicians call for boycott of Pernod Ricard products
A firestorm of anger over Pernod Ricard selling Absolut vodka to Russia has forced the French company into a swift policy U-turn.
The world’s second largest premium drinks group had acknowledged that it had restarted shipping its top-selling vodka to Russia after it halted deliveries in March 2022 after the invasion of Ukraine.
Pernod Ricard decided to run down stocks existing in the country but, as allowed by international agreements, resumed supplying limited amounts because, it claimed, staff at its Russian subsidiary could face criminal charges for purposefully bankrupting its operations in the country.
Russian operators were obtaining supplies of Absolut via the parallel import market, so by restarting limited shipments the French group was seeking to protect its brands from black market distribution.
However, the reaction in Sweden, the homeland of Absolut, was swift and wholly negative.
Some restaurateurs immediately said they would stop selling Pernod Ricard products while politicians across the political spectrum called for a consumer boycott.
There was similar outrage in neighbouring Finland where Restel, a chain of some 200 restaurants, imposed a temporary ban on selling Pernod Ricard brands.
Announcing the swift U-turn, Absolut’s chief executive Stéphanie Durroux said in a statement that Absolut was exercising its “duty of care towards our employees and partners”.
“We cannot expose them to massive criticism in all forms,” she said.
Sweden, which has a huge land border with Russia, agreed to join NATO last year, after maintaining international neutrality for many years. Since the invasion, it has been one of Ukraine’s biggest supporters and has supplied large amounts of military equipment to Kiev.
For its part, Finland joined NATO earlier this year in reaction to the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
Russia accounted for about 3% of Pernod Ricard’s global trade before President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 and while it has now ceased shipping Absolut to the country other brands such as scotch whisky lines and Ararat remain available there, as allowed.
the drinks business previously reported that brewers Heineken and Carlsberg are also continuing to sell products to Russia, despite promises to exit the country by the end of last year. Heineken has even launched new products in Russia during the last 12 months.
Both companies claim that selling the Russian arm of their business has proved more difficult than expected, though Carlsberg CEO Cees ‘t Hart appeared to sit firmly on the fence by saying he was keen on including a “buy-back clause” into any contract with a potential buyer, which would give Carlsberg the opportunity to repurchase the Russian assets at a later stage.