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Ontarians spent about $522 per legal-drinking aged person on booze last year: LCBO reportMonday, June 08, 2015 > 10:56:57
Ontario drinkers have a growing thirst for the good things that grow in the province and its oenophiles have a taste for the finer things, the LCBO’s annual sales reveal.
The provincial booze monopoly has broken $5 billion in net sales for the first time, hitting $5.2 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. That means Ontarians spent approximately $522 for each of the 9.98 million residents over the age of 19 (according to 2011 census figures).
But drinkers aren’t just guzzling more, they are also paying for more expensive vintages.
Wine sales grew four per cent, hitting almost $1.4 billion; of that, $475 million when to sales from the LCBO’s pricier Vintages section, a spike of almost 8 per cent.
The new “Vintages Essentials,” a selection of higher-quality wines that are always kept in stock in some stores, as opposed to most vintages which rotate throughout the year, likely helped that growth, a spokesperson said.
Local cider sales grew an eye-popping 93 per cent to $4 million
The local food movement in Ontario is also extending to its beverage choices.
Local cider sales grew 93 per cent to $4 million — a modest sum but one that shows a thirst for the fledgling industry.
Just this week the Ontario Craft Cider Association visited Queen’s Park to lobby for inclusion in the Liberals’ plans to extend beer sales to grocery stores and review wine and spirit sales as well. The group noted hard cider is in a regulatory limbo in which it is classified as fruit wine but sold alongside beer.
“We’re basically the next generation of craft beer, but we don’t fit into anyone’s definitions so we are left behind,” said Tom Wilson, chair of the association and owner of Spirit Tree Cidery.
Ontario craft spirits, another small but accelerating segment, grew 53 per cent to $6.7 million.
Local craft beer sales rose nearly 36 per cent to $68.3 million — a huge number considering how much of Ontario sales still go through The Beer Store. Total beer sales approached $1.1 billion.
Ontario wine sales hit $423 million, a 6.8 per cent increase.
All that adds up to a $1.8-billion return to the provincial treasury — a number that’s on top of the $566 million the province collected in beer and wine taxes last year.
LCBO President Bob Peter attributes the growth to “delivering excellent customer service.”
Though critics say Ontario’s liquor distribution has ossified in the post-Prohibition era, the LCBO has entered the 21st century in recent years. Its Food&Drink magazine brings in both advertising revenue and links the growing “foodie” movement to booze. It’s also done a great job of highlighting trends: last year it tapped into the craft gin and local cider trends, clearly to much effect.
"The hottest trend this year is ice tea"
With plans to open a specialty craft-beer store in Toronto that offers growlers, reusable bottles that are usually around a litre, the LCBO is adapting and even pushing its customers’ appetites — just not as quickly as some may want.
This summer, the LCBO is watching the new hard ice tea trend.
“The hottest trend this year is ice tea. We are offering six new ice teas in the category. Snapple and Palm Bay Ice Teas are our bestselling teas so far,” said Lisa Chapman, product manager with the LCBO. “Stores can’t stock the shelves fast enough.”
"The hottest new fruit flavours this year is watermelon"
And for the fruit-flavoured fans sick of blood orange, blueberry and pomegranate, there’s a new kid on the block:
“The hottest new fruit flavour this year is watermelon,” Chapman said. “Our top selling new innovation is Palm Bay’s seasonal flavour; Dragon Fruit Watermelon Breeze, followed by Smirnoff Ice Watermelon Mimosa and Jack Daniels Country Cocktail Watermelon Punch.”
And frozen drinks aren’t just for sorority girls or resort vacations anymore.
“New trends in the ready to drink category, not only in Ontario, but globally are the ‘freeze and squeeze’ single-serve pouches,” Chapman said.