Industry needs more people of colour in ‘critical roles’

The response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement must result in more people of colour holding “critical roles” in the spirits industry, the global brand director of Jack Daniel’s has said.

Matt Blevins was speaking to The Spirits Business last month following the launch of the Nearest & Jack Advancement Initiative, which aims to boost diversity across the American whiskey industry.

He said: “Quite simply, we want more African-Americans and people of colour in the industry as owners, distillers, leaders, and in other critical roles.

“It won’t happen overnight, but by creating more access and offering training, mentorships and start-up support, it will make the industry open and attractive, and the change will follow.”

In the past months, the BLM movement has highlighted the need to eradicate systematic racism from all areas of society. The global reach of the campaign has increased since the death of African-American George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

News of the event sparked protests against police brutality and resulted in greater calls for equality around the world.

Blevins said: “The events happening across America and the attention brought by Black Lives Matter has revealed, once again, the disturbing and systemic racism that persists in the United States. We are hopeful that these times will be a catalyst for conversations and greater action, similar to what has been happening with Brown-Forman and Jack Daniel’s.”

The industry’s response to the BLM movement has seen the launch of a number of initiatives to promote greater diversity in the industry. Blevins believes these actions could cause “lasting change” and improve equality across the spirits industry.

He said: “This is more than a moment, it’s a movement that is causing those of us within Brown-Forman and Jack Daniel’s to listen, learn, say, act and do things differently.

“If what’s happening within our company and brand team is any indication, recent events are bringing about deeper conversations and greater potential for real and lasting change. There is a sense of urgency and priority that feels different now.”

In our August 2020 issue, The Spirits Business explored how the spirits sector has responded to calls for change.

Here, we highlight six ways the drinks industry can support racial diversity.

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Author: Owen Bellwood

Timothy Kelly

Tim is the Founder & Master Distiller at Felene. He developed his passion for the spirits and hospitality business while growing-up and working in his family's restaurant and liquor store business. Tim’s passion for the epicurean lifestyle has found it’s latest manifestation in the Felene Distillery. Tim is a 5-time Gold Medal Award winning Distiller. He has won a Platinum medal at the Prestigious Los Angeles Spirits Awards and his signature vodka was named Best-in-Category by the American Distilling Institute. Mr. Kelly is also a prolific author and writer and his blog is filled with ideas, discoveries, observations and recommendations to help his readers enjoy life’s simple epicurean pleasures.

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