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Drinks business "needs to be better at talking to consumers"

Published:  20 June, 2016

Drinks authors and quasi-comedians Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham have made at a career out of communicating and talking to consumers about the world of alcohol.

Performing and writing under the pseudonym the Thinking Drinkers, they are known on the stand-up circuit for their informative but light-hearted theatrical sampling shows which engage directly with consumers.

During their chat with Harpers, Ben McFarland criticised the industry for not doing the same.

"The drinks business needs to be better at telling people 'why' and giving them the story," he said.

"The whole industry is good at talking to each other but not consumers. I'm still amazed about the things after all this time that still hasn't got through to the consumer. People in the trade assume customers know about different hop or grape varieties, but they don't. Consumers still think sherry is something you're only supposed to each at Christmas."

He added: "The trade can be very insular. It's about communication. There are a lot of people who come to our show who have never even tried spirits neat before."

Attracted by the comedic premise and the promise of free drinks throughout the show, few can deny that the Good Beer Guide West Coast USA authors have the rapt attention audience most drinks companies can only dream of.

They also have the opportunity to dispel some of the more persistent myths dogging the industry.

"Talking about ingredients is boring, so we like to concentrate on the stories behind them. None of these drinks made in a vacuum - they all reflect where they're made. Take Jagermeister for example, that is a massively misunderstood spirit. It was made in Germany originally before the men went out on hunts. It certainly wasn't drunk with Redbull."

In their new show, Around the World in 80 Drinks, the pair explore alternative attitudes to alcohol and Britain's "so-called booze problem".

They say that contrary to media scare-mongering, they have seen an evolution in the habits of UK drinkers.

Tom Sandham said: "The Daily Mail would have you believe we're a nation of binge drinkers. It's changing. People are drinking less but better. It started with people wanting to find out more about their food and now that has finally in drink too. It's a good time for drink."

The Thinking Drinkers are taking their new show Around the World in 80 Drinks to the Edinburgh Fringe this August.