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International Rum Summit (SIR 2023) – Interview with the Summit founder

Posted on Monday 12 September 2022

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SIR 2023 International Rum Summit

What is the SIR?

Patrick Loger: SIR 2023 is the very first international summit of the rum industry. There are already many events (fairs, competitions…) that promote the rum product as such. Our goal with this summit is to highlight the sector, to explain why and how rum is expanding tremendously worldwide and to try to think about its future. We will therefore organize conferences, keynotes, debates, workshops, which will feed these reflections.

Who will participate?

The actors of the sector: representatives of organizations and public institutions of rum producing countries (more than 20 producing countries are expected), producers of the overseas territories and, moreover, more than 30 speakers, influencers, media, international buyers and the various companies constituting the rum ecosystem today (manufacturers of bottles, barrels, yeast…).

In all, 1000 participants per day will represent the heart of the sector, during the SIR. We also want to highlight the innovative nature of the sector, by encouraging the participation of startups from overseas, France and abroad. They will present their innovations, which place rum today in second place among the most consumed spirits in the world.

How will it work in practice?

The summit will take place over 3 days, on May 3, 4 and 5, 2023, from 9am to 5pm. Several highlights are already planned. For example, Japan will be present and will explain how in 30 years this country has managed to become one of the main whisky countries. Champagne will also be represented as the spearhead of French luxury. These are two avenues of development to be followed for the overseas rum. Alongside the thirty or so international speakers, there will also be renowned mixologists, since the development of rum, particularly in Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore), requires mixology.

The metropolitan rum industry will also be present since it is in full development. Sugar cane is even being planted in Corsica, Sicily, Spain and Germany. Rum is exploding and countries that traditionally had no historical link with rum are becoming producer countries. Faced with this real trend, it would be a shame if our overseas territories, which are historically and culturally linked to this sector, did not find their place in the colossal expansion that rum is undergoing today.

Is there a risk that the overseas rums do not benefit from this craze?

Indeed, it should be noted, for example, that it is a brand produced in the Virgin Islands, Captain Morgan, which is experiencing the strongest growth in terms of sales. It is now ranked second in terms of the number of bottles sold over a year (2021). We are also seeing more and more competitions springing up around the world, with medals awarded to international brands.

Recently, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition named a spiced rum from Quebec as the best in the world! Even countries that do not have a great rum tradition or culture can win medals and create a buzz. With the multiplication of these competitions, the risk of confusion increases. The question remains today: what credit should be given to these numerous distinctions? Is there not a risk that overseas rums will be diluted in this magma of competitions and this profusion of medals? Within the SIR, we are going to organize a conference on the reliability and the scope of all these competitions.

What will be the themes addressed during the summit?

The SIR is organized around 4 main sphères:

  1. The French and International Public Policies sphere, led by Coriolink, where political figures from all over the world will share their position on the evolution of rum.
  2. The Business sphere, led by Business France, will explore the opportunities and trends in the business sector, from the harvesting of the cane to marketing.
  3. There will also be a focus on Innovation because it is a very important topic for us. This sphere is supported by the Crédit Agricole, through Village by CA, a device of innovation gas pedals for companies and start-ups in the territories. We will review all the innovations that can be applied to the rum industry, whether it is yeast, artificial intelligence, packaging … That discussions between players lead to solutions for creating companies during the summit, is one of the goals for us. Why not set up our own bottling and packaging structures? This would lower costs and create jobs.
  4. Finally, there is the Education sphere, which will highlight the training available in the overseas territories and metropolitan France. It will be supported by the Center for Research in Economics and Law of Insular Development (CREDDI) of the University of the West Indies. And transversally, Pôle Emploi will highlight all the prospects and job opportunities in the sector for young and old. The actors of the sector will be able to present their know-how to the population on the last day of the SIR 2023. Moreover, a bridge will be established between the rum culture on the one hand and the pictorial, sculptural and photographic cultures on the other.

Young people will therefore be present alongside institutions, producers, bankers…?

The idea is also to allow the young generations in the French overseas territories to discover and appropriate this sector that creates jobs and value. It is the whole ecosystem from the cultivation of sugar cane itself, to marketing around brands, through distillation, aging, distribution … That is why at least 30 young people per territory of the Overseas (entrepreneurs, trainees, employees …) will be present.

You mentioned the issue of training, can you tell us more?

The issue of training is crucial. If we want the young generations from overseas to be able to work in the rum industry, from the field to marketing, they must have access to knowledge, skills and courses on site. Until now, they were obliged to go to Metropolitan France or abroad to train. There, more and more business schools and universities are making room for spirits and rum in their wine courses. In the West Indies, this is less the case. But things are moving in the right direction.

For example, ASFO Guadeloupe has just opened a Bachelor's degree in marketing and sales of wines and spirits in Pointe-à-Pitre, with an 80% focus on rum. They will be able to train on the spot for jobs such as cellarmen, entrepreneurs, salesmen, or even sommeliers… For the industry, the challenge is to have a pool of young people trained in the specificities of overseas rums, who will then be able to better explain and sell it on national and international markets. We are already in contact with the « Centre International des Spiritueux » in Charente, the University of Rum in Guadeloupe, the « Mission Locale de Guadeloupe » and the GRETA.

Will there be an environmental component?

We will talk about agriculture, through the innovation of processes that allow for a clean and environmentally friendly agriculture. As far as organic farming is concerned, the issue will be addressed with the aim of harmonizing criteria at the European and international levels. Let's avoid the trap of punitive organic agriculture.

What is the status of your relations with the ministries?

We are in contact with the various ministries concerned, namely: the Ministry of Overseas France, the Ministry of Employment, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Research, the Ministry of Cooperation and Foreign Affairs. Of course, the interdepartmental delegate for equal opportunities supports us. I was also received last July by François de Kerever, President Emmanuel Macron's overseas advisor… at the Elysée Palace! Similarly, we are in contact with representatives of the European Community. It is an international summit, therefore, government delegations from producing countries are also invited.

Why did you choose Guadeloupe to host this first International Rum Summit?

In terms of infrastructure, especially hotels and airlines, Guadeloupe is well suited. In addition, the city council of Gosier, puts at our disposal the Sports and Cultural Palace of the city. We benefit from the support of all the ultramarine elected officials, and in particular those of Guadeloupe, the host of the summit. Will there be other editions? It is not possible to cover all the problems of the rum industry in one edition.

It is not a one-off operation, the SIR is planned to be held every two years. The SIR 2023 has not yet taken place… and we have already been invited by two countries to organize the next ones: Cuba and the Dominican Republic. This is very encouraging, but first, let's try to make the first summit in Guadeloupe a success.

May 2023 is a long way off! What are your plans until then?

Between now and May 2023, we are going to present the SIR 2023 in several countries and organize highlights, such as the one in New York in March 2022, Guadeloupe in May 2022. We are preparing the official announcement in November in Paris, as well as a tour in the various overseas territories. We will respond to invitations from trade shows, competitions and jazz festivals in particular.

Of course during this period, we will proceed to the implementation of a communication plan dedicated to all the actors of the sector whether they are local, national or international. We are finalizing the partnership files, the file of the SIR 2023 exhibitors' village. Furthermore, we are continuing our exchanges with the various ministries concerned. We are already pleased to register participants from different countries.

You also talk a lot about the notion of transmission… in fact, how does this materialize?

Indeed, the goal is to transmit to the younger generations all the tools that will allow them to ensure the succession and the sustainability of fundamental activities. Many young people have already joined the ITS team. Among them, Manuela Hernandez, as project manager. After studying at the ISC Paris, she created l'Echanson, a personal wine shop dedicated to rum. It is with profiles like hers that the future of the SIR will be written!

Thank you Patrick Loger for this interview and we look forward to attend SIR 2023 in Guadeloupe in next May 2023!

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