Diageo forces small companies out of The Gathering

Our attention has been drawn to a drama happening behind the scenes of the preparations for The Gathering, the centrepiece event of the Homecoming Scotland initiative, which will take place in Edinburgh in July.

In short words, Diageo, one of the main sponsors of the event and, as it happens, the most powerful drinks company in the world, secured to be the only whisky company present at the Scottish Produce Market, despite it being advertised as an opportunity for the small, independent producers to showcase their genuinely Scottish goods.

Independent whisky distillers and bottlers have been informed that their applications to be part of the Scottish Produce Market “had been rejected due to a conflict with Diageo”.

Fiona Richmond, project manager at Scotland Food and Drink, for The Scotsman:

“We did have interest from a number of whisky companies in taking space, and although we wouldn’t have been able to accommodate them all, it is a bit unfortunate that whisky products will not be available. It’s a critical part of the food and drink industry and we need to keep alive small independent producers.”

Surely for even mentioning small producers Fiona will be getting a sack. Diageo will make sure…

Alex Nicol, managing director of Spencerfield, an independent producer in Inverkeithing, Fife, whose brands include Sheep Dip and Pig’s Nose, said:

“It’s a complete stitch-up. We are a small, independent company and now find we’ve been bulldozed out of one of the biggest cultural dates in Scotland’s events calendar.

“We were recently informed by Scotland Food and Drink that our application to be part of the Scottish Produce Market had been rejected due to a conflict with Diageo, one of the event sponsors.

“But The Gathering’s website clearly states that ‘traders can sell a wide variety of high-quality Scottish fare produced by themselves’. We do not present any threat to Diageo, but this action is typical of big companies.”

How dare you say such things, Alex! Now not only you can’t display your products at The Gathering of Diageo and Friends, but the bouncers won’t even let you in. Not even if you wear a kilt. Not even if you paint your face blue and have a plastic Claymore on your back. My advice to you? Stay at home and get yourself sloshed on some Gallo wine…


Update: a response from Diageo as published today on scotsman.com:

I would like to respond to the alarming misrepresentation of Diageo’s sponsorship of “The Gathering”.

“The Gathering” is a commercial undertaking that required money from commercial sponsors to make the event happen. We believe approaches were made to a number of Scotch Whisky producers including Diageo. After some negotiation, Diageo agreed to spons

or the event on terms that are absolutely standard for any commercial sponsorship – exclusivity for Diageo whisky brands being a core part of the agreement as it would be in any brand sponsorship of any event.

When we entered this sponsorship we were not aware of the plans for a food and drink festival associated with “The Gathering”. This has come as a surprise to us and we can understand the views of other producers who feel they have been denied access. Scotland’s whisky industry has a rich diversity of brands and cultures and these deserve to be celebrated.

Diageo is the largest single supporter of “The Homecoming” and just this month unveiled in Edinburgh the world’s largest collection of Scotch Whisky bottles and memorabilia, bought by Diageo from a Brazilian collector and brought back to Scotland as part of our commitment to Homecoming.

Anyone visiting the Diageo Claive Vadiz Collection in the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh will notice that it contains Scotch Whisky brands from producers across the industry.

Director, Corporate Relations, Diageo Whisky Edinburgh Park Lochside Way


What can I say? I guess I have to apologise for the title of this post. You didn’t force small companies out of The Gathering. It turns out they forced themselves out with their disgraceful lack of money! Fair and square.


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The original article in The Scotsman
Diageo’s response
The Gathering of Diageo and Friends website
Spencerfield Spirits Company website

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