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Distillers' City Debate contests innovation

Tickets have been released for the sixth annual Distillers’ City Debate on Tuesday 16 May 2017 at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, London EC1A. The Debate will be introduced by Richard Watling, the master of The Worshipful Company of Distillers, and chaired by Ian Buxton, liveryman, commentator, and author of the 101 Whiskies & Gins series.

Speaking for the motion – "This house believes that innovation is a more effective tool for growth than acquisition in the spirits industry" – will be Diageo’s global head of innovation Michael Ward and Tom Sandham, co-founder of the Thinking Drinkers. Opposing the motion will be Compass Group chairman and former Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh, and Simon Hales, managing director of European Equity Research for Barclays Investment Bank.

The opening thought from Michael Ward is that: "innovation blends consumer insight, discipline and flair to ensure leading brands remain vibrant and relevant in a changing consumer landscape, and develops and nurtures the next generation of great brands." Tom Sandham adds: "innovation inspires the trade and consumer to engage with what we do. I'm fascinated by the history of drink, but without innovation I'd run out of things to say and there'd be nothing left for those on the 'acquisition' side to buy."

Paul Walsh’s view is that: "growth should come from innovation and M&A. The two working together should yield industry leading performance. M&A can speed up infrastructural investment, creating a bigger platform from which to leverage internal innovation." The final comment before what promises to be a lively exchange comes from Simon Hales: "M&A drives multiple avenues of spirits industry growth. It is a root, while innovation is just a single branch. It provides access to new products, markets, customers and talent to the benefit of consumers, producers and shareholders."

Around 200 guests – spirits industry, analysts, City media, Distillers’ Livery and masters of other Livery Companies – are expected to gather for the Distillers’ City Debate. After the vote, there will be an opportunity to continue discussions and taste spirits from both sides at the Distillers’ Bar.

Entry to the Distillers’ City Debate is free of charge by pre-booked ticket (email or call 020 7960 7173). Doors will open at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, King Edward Hall, 2 King Edward Street, London EC1A 1HQ at 6pm, the Debate runs from 6:30pm – 7:45pm, and the Distillers’ Bar and canapés until 9pm.

26 April 2017 - Sam Coyne The Drinks Report, news editor