To The Editor,
A lot has been said of late that changing how Ontario sells beer will help small brewers. Let’s look at the facts, however, and how well the current system serves small brewers—along with Vankleek Hill consumers.
Today, The Beer Store provides small brewers with opportunities for cost savings that make it easier for them to get their beer on the shelves. For brewers with annual sales of less than 10,000 hectolitres—that’s 95 per cent of Ontario’s microbreweries—the fee that major brewers are required to pay is waived for two product listings in the seven stores nearest to the brewer.
This is because we’re committed to growing the flourishing beer scene in Ontario. We’re beer lovers, too. It’s also because we’re partly owned by small brewers.
Over 30 Ontario-based brewers are direct shareholders of the Beer Store, which is one of the reasons we’re so committed to showcasing their terrific products. We sell 800 brands, including 380 craft brands, from 190 different brewers, with more reach in local communities than any corner store could offer.
We stock so many products from small brewers because we support the communities we operate in and our customers ask us to. Sales are up by almost two-thirds over the last three years, even as overall sales at The Beer Store have dropped by almost ten per cent due to expanded sales in grocery stores. It’s naïve to think that moving more sales to convenience and big box stores like has been done in Quebec and parts of the U.S. will boost small brewer sales. These outlets tend to promote mainstream brands.
It is beyond belief, then, that convenience stores with an even smaller footprint would devote precious shelf space to brands that sell less as opposed to brands that sell more. Just as fancy chocolates and organic vegetables aren’t generally found at the 7-Eleven around the corner, it’s unlikely to stock niche beers from small brewers—if for no other reason than corner stores don’t have the space.
The Beer Store, in contrast, have both the space and a proven desire to sell small brewer brands. And we sell them responsibly, thanks to our 7,000 employees with fair wages, a pension plan and other benefits few corner stores can offer. We also sell them at prices that are lower than most provinces, significantly below what Albertans pay in a privatized system, and roughly on par with prices in a more open system like Quebec —even though taxes in Ontario are much higher.
If you’re planning a trip to Alberta anytime soon, visit a private liquor store and see for yourself. The prices are higher, and the brand selection is almost certain to be less than you’ll find at one of our stores. Or visit a dépanneur in Quebec and try to find a crisp, micro-brewed IPA or a small batch dark stout. As anyone whose tried can attest, the shelves are filled instead with mainstream brands of larger brewers.
The Beer Store offers demonstrably better selection than corner stores in Quebec or privatized liquor stores in Alberta. We’re also a cheaper option for consumers than convenience stores would be for the simple reason that we sell more beer, and brewers pay far less in transportation costs to than they would shipping to thousands of convenience stores.
Then there is The Beer Store’s world-leading environmental responsibility. No other retail chain has as much product stewardship as us. We were green long, long before it was the thing to be, and our recycling efforts are consistently ranked among the world’s best. But with fewer Beer Stores—an inevitable consequence of selling more beer elsewhere—there won’t only be fewer brands available close to you, there’ll be fewer places to return your empties as well.
The Beer Store is proud of our selection, our fairly-paid employees, and our environmental responsibility. We’re proud to count over 30 Ontario-based brewer shareholders among our owners. And we know—as does anyone whose bought beer in a convenience store in Quebec or the United States—that smaller stores with less shelf space will sell fewer brands, not more.
Submitted by Ted Moroz.
Ted Moroz is President of the Beer Store.