Federation of Wholesale Distributors

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According to its website, the Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) is a UK member organisation for wholesalers operating in the grocery and foodservice markets, who supply independent retailers and caterers.1 Additionally, the FWD states that they work with “Ministers, MPs and Government officials to defend and protect members’ business interest against political and regulatory threats.”2 Since early 2016, the FWD has been supported by the Belgium based public affair consultancy, Interel.3

Links to the Tobacco Industry

In February 2021, the FWD’s website listed Japan Tobacco International UK a Supplier Member of the FWD.4 While British American Tobacco UK, Imperial Tobacco, JUUL Labs, and Philip Morris are listed as their Supplier Partners.5

Third party technique

In 2012, the European Commission published its proposal for a revision of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), the piece of legislation that regulates tobacco products in Europe.6

Among other things, the Commission proposed to introduce a tracking and tracing system and security features to combat illicit tobacco trade.

The tobacco industry has challenged this feature of the proposal, as has the FWD. In the November 2013 edition of the retail magazine Wholesale News, James Bielby, FWD’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), was quoted as saying that the TPDs proposal for the tracking and tracing system would place “an enormous burden on wholesalers to track tobacco products through the supply chain”. Without giving any evidence, he further warned that the tobacco market is increasingly being controlled by “criminals”, and that solutions should punish those criminals rather than those who are playing by the rules and are struggling to compete in this market.7

Despite the tobacco industry and FWD’s opposition to the proposal, the TPD was adopted in April 2014 and became applicable to EU member states in May 2016.8 The tracking and tracing of tobacco products began in May 2019. However, due to Brexit, the UK lost access to the EU track and trace system at the end of the transition period in December 2020.9 In December 2020, the FWD and others stakeholders attended a meeting with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to discuss the implementation of a UK Track and trace system and the arrangement for Northern Ireland.10

Against Plain Packaging

Following the commencement of the public consultation on plain packaging in the UK on 16 April 2012, the FWD spoke out against the proposals. Speaking to retail magazine Talking Retail , the FWD warned that plain packaging would add an operational burden to wholesalers and their retail customers, while doing nothing to reduce smoking rates.11

CEO James Bielby said: “Removing clear identification of manufacturer, brand and price in the distribution chain cannot possibly affect the public’s attitude to smoking, but it will create operational difficulties, confusion and delay for both wholesale depot staff and their customers.”

In its submission to the consultation, British American Tobacco (BAT) cited Bielby’s quote as evidence to support its argument that plain packaging would cause a “detrimental impact on the efficiency of day-to-day operations.”12 However, the FWD does not cite any evidence to support its opinions.

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  1. FWD website, undated, accessed February 2021
  2. FWD, About FWD, undated, accessed February 2021
  3. Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists, undated, accessed February, 2021
  4. FWD, Supplier Members, undated, accessed February 2021
  5. FWD, Supplier Partners, undated, accessed February 2021
  6. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, Directive 2014/40/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning the manufacturer, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products and repealing Directive 2001/37/EC, Official Journal of the European Union, Brussels. Available from eur-lex.europa.eu
  7. Wholesale News, Trade rounds on EU tobacco proposals. November 2013, p4-5
  8. European Commission, Revision of the Tobacco Products Directive, undated, accessed February 2021
  9. HMRC, Tobacco Track and Trace following the UK transition period, 10 December 2020, accessed February 2021
  10. HMRC, HMRC policy meetings with tobacco stakeholders: October to December 2020, 21 January 2021, accessed February 2021
  11. Talking Retail, Standardised tobacco packaging in wholesale ‘will not achieve government’s aims’, says FWD, 17 April 2012, accessed November 2013
  12. British American Tobacco, UK Standardised Packaging Consultation. Response of British American Tobacco UK Limited, 8 August 2012