French drinks company Pernod Ricard has halted all exports of its brands to Russia, bowing to public pressure following an outcry after it continued to export brands such as Jameson whiskey as war raged in Ukraine.
The decision marks a further retreat by the brand after it announced it would stop exporting Swedish vodka brand Absolut to its Russian distribution network last month.
The company, which owns more than 240 brands ranging from Beefeater gin to Perrier-Jouet champagne, announced on Friday that it had halted all exports to Russia as of the end of April. Existing stocks will take a few months to be sold locally, it said.
Pernod Ricard operates a local distribution network and employs 300 people in Russia, but a person close to the company said the subsidiary would now close and discussions were ongoing on how to handle the process.
“We are assessing how to adapt our local organisation in light of these decisions, while fully complying with all local legal regulations,” Pernod said, adding that it would “continue to support local employees during this process”.
The decision underlines the growing pressure on western consumer brands to stop operating in Russia following President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine in February last year, even if the products they sell are not subject to western sanctions.
The Paris-listed family-backed group halted all shipments of its products to Russia in March last year after the war broke out, before resuming some exports a few months later after pre-existing stocks were sold.
Pernod Ricard, which is the world’s second-biggest drinks manufacturer by sales, said it had restarted local distribution in order to support its local employees and protect its brands against grey market distribution by third-party actors.
But public pressure mounted in the west for the company to cease all activities in Russia. It stopped all shipments of Absolut vodka bottles after intense criticism in Sweden and Finland, where some restaurants threatened to stop selling the group’s products.
Sweden and Finland agreed to join the NATO military alliance following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, highlighting the degree to which opinion in nearby countries has swung against Moscow.
Earlier this month, Irish senator Garret Ahearn called for Pernod Ricard to be added to the EU sanctions list at the bloc’s next foreign affairs ministers meeting.
“While Russian drones and missiles rain down on Kyiv this week, our Jameson whiskey continues to quench Putin’s thirst. Time’s up. This can’t continue,” he said. “The time has come for EU action to be taken as the Pernod Ricard commercial decision has not been clear enough or transparent.”