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Vancouver: Gluten-free diets swing B.C. booze salesThursday, March 19, 2015 > 09:43:57
More British Columbians are making ciders and coolers — especially the imported variety — their drink of choice - thanks to new gluten-free diets and millennials satiating that sweet tooth.
Since 2012, imported coolers and ciders has been the only category of alcohol sold in the B.C. market that has grown dramatically. According to the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch’s latest numbers, 9.6 million litres of imported coolers and ciders were sold in 2014, a 53% increase over 2013’s sales.
The year before was equally remarkable, boasting 57% growth. In real figures, that means sales of imported ciders and coolers have more than doubled in just two years — equal to about $30 million in additional retail sales over that time period.
Sales of domestic product have also grown, but at a much slower rate, comparable to — and in some cases even falling behind — the growth of other alcohol sales.
The BCLDB said it doesn’t have the resources to analyze why people might be turning to the imported sweet drinks, but pointed to new drinking-driving legislation as a possibility. It said the cider and cooler market is still considered small in the overall market — after all, $3.1 billion worth of booze passed through the B.C. liquor market last year.
Darryl Lamb, brand manager at Legacy Liquor Store in the Olympic Village, has worked in the alcohol retail industry for more than a decade.
“Ciders have really lifted up because, of course, of the gluten-free diet set ... there’s no gluten in cider but it still gets you as drunk as beer,” Lamb said.
“The sweet tooth of millennials has really driven growth a lot — they grew up with pop and now they’re allowed to drink adult drinks but don’t want to get a whisky. They want to make sure it’s sweet and matches their palate.”
European brands have also moved recently into the market, Lamb said. And with the expectation that government and private liquor stores will be competing more fiercely with upcoming provincial changes this year — private stores have been eager to expand their offerings.
Lamb’s store, for example, has 238 different kinds of ciders and coolers. That’s twice the selection carried when the store finished its first year in 2011.
The BCLDB also pointed to the anticipated competition between government and the private market as a reason it couldn’t release its plan on how it might take advantage of the cider and cooler demand.
Lamb said they’ve been paying attention, however. A quick check of the government stores’ main website shows 103 different ciders and coolers on sale.