The consequence of the decision to show support for Ukraine is in the warehouses of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board – the more than 7,000 bottles.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, at the request of Governor Tom Wolf, decided on February 27 to remove Russian-made vodka from its shelves and online store in protest of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Board Chairman Tim Holden said at the time, “Given the changing political-economic climate, it’s just the right thing to do.”
Due to the ongoing dispute, the PLCB finds itself in what is believed to be the unprecedented situation of being stuck with inventory it has already bought, cannot sell and for which the seller is no longer responsible. , according to his spokesperson Shawn Kelly.
The inventory includes 2,464 bottles of standard 80 proof Russian vodka sold for $31.99 each and 5,259 bottles of 80 proof Ustianochka vodka sold for $16.99 per bottle.
“The PLCB has not yet determined what to do with these bottles,” Kelly said.
In the 52 weeks before the decision to remove these products from its offerings, it said Russian vodka accounted for less than $1.1 million in sales, or 0.06% of the $1.7 billion in total sales. of spirits from the PLCB for the same period.
None of the banned vodka products made from winter wheat from the Russian steppes and glacial waters is the most popular brand of this alcohol sold in Pennsylvania.
In fact, American-made corn-based Tito’s is a clear favorite among Pennsylvania vodka shoppers of the 122 brands available for sale to consumers, not counting special-order or licensed-only products, according to the PLCB.
Unflavored vodka is the most popular of all spirits sold by the PLCB in 2020-21, according to its annual report. Flavored vodka ranks fourth in product sales.
Nationally, vodka is considered the backbone of the spirits industry, accounting for 27% of all spirits volumes sold, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. However, Russian vodka accounts for just 1.3% of all vodka imported into the United States, compared to 47% from France, said council spokesman Ainsley Holyfield.
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But the percentage of Russian vodka imports into this country will undoubtedly decline this year, as several other states besides Pennsylvania have taken steps to remove these products from liquor store shelves to put a pinch on the Russian economy by banning one of the country’s best-known products. .
For Pennsylvania, however, the move left the PLCB with over $168,000 of aging vodka inventory in its warehouses. According to experts, an unopened bottle of vodka does not improve over time.
PLCB member Mary Isenhour said she had not participated in any in-depth conversations among the three board members about what to do with Russian vodka, but gave her personal opinion.
“I’m not inclined to put it back on the shelf until Russia leaves Ukraine,” she said.
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