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Demand for beer in B.C. lowest in Canada, number of breweries third highest

Consumers might be buying directly from local breweries: Steveston brewery.
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British Columbia has the lowest consumption of beer per capita, according to Beer Canada.

Beer consumption in British Columbia is the lowest in the country but it has the third-highest number of breweries, according to Beer Canada’s latest report.

Data from Beer Canada shows that demand for beer in B.C. has decreased steadily over the years – from 77.4 litres per capita in 2015 to 64.8 litres in 2020. The national average for beer consumption in 2020 was 69.3 litres.

“I think we're lowest in beer consumption because we do have so many other products available to us,” said Rhandi Clarke, category manager of JAK’s Beer Wine & Spirits.

Canned cocktails currently make up more than 40 per cent of canned product sales at the B.C.-based chain. As well, there has been a huge increase in non-alcoholic options during and after the pandemic, Clarke told the Richmond News.

Consumers might be opting for options with lower calories, Clark speculated.

“A can of beer is 150 to 200 calories and a can of non-alcoholic beer is 15 to 25 calories,” she noted.

Meanwhile in Steveston, Five Roads Brewing Co. is seeing a similar increase in demand for non-beer options.

“People who come to us normally are beer-focused people. But since we are in Steveston, there is a lot of traffic coming through, and I find that a lot of the younger people are tending to be leaning towards cocktails and towards wines and sodas and stuff like that,” said James Sings, manager of Five Roads.

Sings thinks that the taste of beer could be part of the reason.

“The younger generation isn’t really into the taste of beer. Something that maybe is sweeter or just not as bitter, not as heavy as beer – that might be a reason they go for it,” he said.

But even beer-hesitant customers might find the right beer for them, Sings notes.

“We do find that our kiwi coconut sour that we’re running at the moment is very popular with people who will come in and tell me ‘I don’t really like beer.’ … It doesn’t taste like what people perceive as a beer,” said Sings.

Price could also be affecting sales of beer.

“The most recent Consumer Price Index data shows the price of beer in BC increased 6.8 per cent year-over-year in May, while liquor only increased 2.4 per cent in the province,” reads JAK’s recent press release.

Local is best

But while beer might not be the trendiest now, British Columbians are still showing a lot of love for the pint.

Clarke also believes the low consumption numbers may not be telling the whole story, as B.C. is experiencing a boom in its number of breweries.

Ranking third highest in Canada with 230 breweries, B.C. has seen a 15 per cent growth from the previous year, which outpaces the national average by 7 per cent.

“With such a large number of beer options produced in B.C., local brews are becoming increasingly popular. British Columbians are shopping hyperlocal, choosing to support the breweries that are right in their own community,” said Clarke.

And local breweries are important for communities.

“We’re really blessed in the sense that so many smaller towns and neighbourhoods, they’re able to have that local brewery and that local watering hole they can go and hang out in the sense of community and support their friends and neighbours,” said Clarke.

Sings also thinks that while other products are taking up a higher proportion of sales at local liquor stores, it could also be due to people shopping straight from their local breweries.

“… Our beers are mainly on tap, and we sell out of cans out of our two locations here. And that would definitely be the case for hundreds of breweries around the province…

“So, it could also be a reflection of people buying beers from the breweries themselves, trying to buy local,” said Sings.

Regardless, as the province welcomes the long-awaited summer, Clarke and Sings are optimistic that demand for beer will rise again.

“When the weather isn't very good, the whole village isn't very busy. When the sun is shining, that's like a complete 180-degree turnaround, where it's almost impossible to find parking here. All the restaurants are filled.

“I'll have far more people come in and buy off sales to go drink on their home patio or go down to Garry Point Park and enjoy the weather down there with a couple of cold beers,” Sings said.