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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 5th Aug 2016 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: The importance of authenticity, ‘Netflix causes cancer’, and a week in West Yorkshire
Authors: Glynn Davis, Paul Chase, and Ann Elliott

The importance of authenticity by Glynn Davis

Back in 2002, my wedding breakfast was held in The Butcher’s Hook & Cleaver in London’s Smithfield area, right up against the meat market. Part of the reason for holding the event in this pub in this particular area of the capital was because my wife (from Kent) and I (from Yorkshire) were proud to be adopted Londoners and Smithfield was proper London, while the Butcher’s Hook also had a pedigree, being run by the capital’s longest established brewer Fuller’s.
Although the pub was not in any way historical, it had that stamp of authenticity because its beers were brewed in the capital – unlike most beer available in the city at that time. What we were buying into was my personal appetite for authenticity, provenance and quality. My thirst and hunger for these elements in food and drink still holds true today. And I’m not alone because the rise of the craft brewers is fuelled largely by younger drinkers also assigning great value to these same characteristics that I hold dear.
It is therefore rather perplexing that the perennial argument crops up that companies like Fuller’s should offload their breweries (for a shed load of money to developers) and focus on just running a pub estate because that is what drives greater cash flow, which feeds through to greater returns on investment, and ultimately benefits the shareholders. Why do the likes of Fuller’s want to continue dirtying their hands by being involved in the capital intensive process of manufacturing? So the argument goes. Well, the reason is because continuing to brew is what gives them their authenticity. They could buy in beer for their pubs from many different breweries but they know that what money can’t buy is history, pedigree, provenance, and authenticity etcetera.
This is why Young’s continues to talk about developing a micro-brewery on the site of its former brewery in Wandsworth, which it sold off many years ago as part of its exit from brewing. It recognises the positive “halo effect” this would have on the company. There is no disputing the fact Young’s has done exceedingly well as a predominantly London-focused pub company. (I can vouch for this because I’ve owned a very modest holding of shares in the company for almost 30 years). But this is simply what it is now: a pub company, which competes with many other pub companies in a very competitive market place. It no longer has the differentiation of a Fuller’s and other vertically integrated brewers around the country.
The reality is, the appeal to investors of companies operating such end-to-end models tends to ebb and flow in all sectors. In pubs and brewing it has been on a downer for some time. In contrast, the sweet spot in retail right now is to own both the channels to market and the manufacturing capability. This is because it has been recognised that the only way to protect your patch long term is to be able to produce (and sell) products that are unique to your business.
IKEA did not become a success on the back of cheap prices. It was down to it having unique in-house designed and manufactured products that could not be bought elsewhere. They were sufficiently desirable to enable IKEA to sell in high volumes, which then enabled it to benefit from economies of scale. This resulted in it then being able to sell at low prices. Clearly Fuller’s and other vertically integrated breweries should not be on a strategy to drive high volumes and low prices – quite the opposite in fact because quality beer from a first grade brewery demands premium prices – but the argument for having control over a unique product mix by controlling production is wholly relevant. And it will arguably become increasingly important as competition hots up and channels to market become ever more fragmented. 
Like Young’s, Fuller’s is doing all the things required of a leisure and hospitality company that runs pubs including: focusing more on food; opening for breakfast; refurbishing its estate; adding rooms to some pubs; continuing to purchase freeholds when they become available; buying “crown jewel” prime central London boozers; constructing new-build outlets on residential estates in the capital; and even opening standalone food outlets (pizza joints called Stable in the case of Fuller’s and Burger Shack at Young’s).
But what Fuller’s is also doing – because it has a brewery – is constantly developing its beer range to take into account changing tastes. It has a rich and increasingly varied range of drinks in its portfolio and has undoubtedly never been more experimental with its output. And long may it continue to do just this because in the long-term it will be companies with authentic propositions that will surely win out.
Glynn Davis is a leading commentator on retail trends 

‘Netflix causes cancer’ by Paul Chase 

“Netflix causes cancer” is the title of an article written by Hank Campbell, who is the president of the American Council on Science and Health. It’s a satirical title of course, and the article that followed was designed to show how epidemiology can prove almost anything can either cause cancer, or protect against it, which is why epidemiology is an excellent vehicle for creating moral panics about alcohol, amongst other things. 

My article today relates back to my last blog for Propel Opinion in which I referred to an opinion piece in the journal Addiction, in which the author wrote about alcohol as a cause of cancer at seven different sites in the human body. There was nothing new in this article, but the media picked up on it and declared it was a new study. The headline read “Finally proof that alcohol causes cancer”, when in fact it was just an article, an opinion piece.
Campbell, in his article, had this to say: “You may have seen renewed recent media claims that alcohol is linked to cancer, based on a new commentary in Addiction. While overuse of alcohol can certainly cause something like fatty liver disease and then cirrhosis, so can too many cheeseburgers. Lots of things can be harmful when misused, that is why the American Council on Science and Health talks about dose-response when environmentalists only want to talk about hazard.”
And then this: “It has been commonly established in longitudinal studies that alcohol in moderation has some positive effects, like with cardiovascular disease risk, but then some meta-analyses say it causes cancer. Which is it? If you are in the media, it doesn’t matter; you write about both as the ‘Big Story’. Many of us are reductionists; we want to eliminate bad luck and true randomness as much as possible, so we try to find cause and effect for everything. Which is why we love to read articles claiming X is a miracle product or later that X will cause cancer – and we do, over and over, like last week with alcohol causing cancer. Again.”

And then he goes on to give a template for how activist academics can misuse science to get publicity for their pet cause by following a well-tried template. Here’s how it works, the way to show Netflix causes cancer in ten easy steps:
1) Get a random sample of 1,000 people and ask them to recall their viewing habits.
2) Find out how many watch Netflix.
3) Find out which disease they share in common.
4) Do some data dredging and use the seductive certainty of significance to suggest your p-value is relevant.
5) Pay to publish it in an open access journal, or find a niche relevant journal desperate for impact factor.
6) Pay AAAS Eurekalert to carry the press release.
7) Answer emails from harried science journalists writing three articles that day. Send snappy quotes about implications for longevity. Slate, vox, etc. Write blog posts about the newspaper articles and then Inquisitr, Mashable, etc rewrite those blog posts.
8) Someone writes a New York Times bestselling book based on it.
9) Academics needing R01 grants rush to produce papers validating the claims in the book.
10) Academics like Marion Nestle write about all of the new papers and declare anyone disagreeing is a shill for “big streaming”.

There you have it. Your first epidemiology paper. And this will get read, because a lot of people have Netflix. My point in quoting this article is to illustrate how activist academics exploit fear of cancer in relation to alcohol precisely in order to generate headlines and to justify the “there is no safe level of alcohol consumption” narrative. I’ll never believe an epidemiologist again!
Paul Chase is a director of CPL Training and a leading commentator on on-trade health and alcohol policy 

A week in West Yorkshire by Ann Elliott

It was great to spend a week in West Yorkshire last week – going back to where you grew up is always an interesting lesson in contrasts. What was once a gastronomic desert is now teeming with places to satisfy even the most demanding of palates. Take Bingley where I went to school. It used to have lots of pubs, all of which were split firmly into two camps – pubs for school kids and pubs for old men. Fair enough, you could always buy pork scratchings, crisps and scotch eggs and we were never over challenged by not having a wide enough range of craft and cask beers, but they were generally pretty grotty. 

Then JD Wetherspoon came into town and cleaned up all the drinkers like one giant hoover – it served them right. Now The Potting Shed has opened (owned by the Burning Night Group) and is attracting a totally different group of clientele. Timothy Taylor has also refurbished The Brown Cow post the disastrous Boxing Day floods, which saw four feet of water pouring into its ground floor area. It’s excellent and serves the best steak pie I have ever had (with chunky chips of course).
Or take Ilkley, which was always posh because it had a Bettys tea room. It didn’t have much else. Last week, I went to The Cow and Calf (a Vintage Inn) on Ilkley Moor (of “baht ‘at” fame) along with thousands of others and had a perfectly respectable, good value meal – I would go back. Le Bistrot Pierre in Ilkley is a regular haunt. I think this brand is a bit of a hidden gem that seems to have everything right – really friendly service, a consistently appealing menu and superbly presented food. With 16 sites to date (including the less obvious towns of Weston-super-Mare, Newport, Torquay, Leamington Spa and Derby), this is one to watch. Carluccio’s has just opened in Ilkley too to join the Olive Branch and Piccolino as exceptional places to eat. So it’s not yet a foodie heaven of a town but getting there.
Or take Skipton – gateway to the Dales. We used to stop here sometimes from a family day out on the way back from the Dales (and when we couldn’t afford a Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley) because it had lots of tea rooms (and the same old, same old pubs). Now you can’t move for really good places to eat, but my favourite has to be Filmore & Union on the high street. This is a wellbeing brand that doesn’t shout its credentials from the rooftop but quietly gets on with selling fantastic food and drink that tastes great and is good for you. It has eight sites in Yorkshire but could go far.
Or take Leeds. Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield and Leeds all used to be as bad as each another in terms of culinary delights but the latter has just catapulted over all the rest to become the best city in the north for eating and drinking (with Manchester of course a close second!). I love the newly opened Banyan from Arc Inspirations in the centre, the quirky but lovely Friends of Ham, and the wonderful Iberica with what must be the most sensational painted ceiling in any restaurant anywhere. The Greek Street area with the Liquorist (previously The Living Room), Gusto, a new hotel, a new Marston’s site, the Alchemist and Carluccio’s will be at its best within a few months and worth a visit.
Whilst I love the ever changing restaurant scene in London, going back home has served to remind me just how much the north, and West Yorkshire in particular, has changed – and significantly for the better.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of leading PR and marketing company Elliotts –

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