Exclusion at Ontario Grocery Stores Negatively Impacting Distillers and Their Local Supply Chain
LONDON, ON, March 20, 2018 /CNW/ - The "Fairness for Ontario Spirits" campaign, aimed at getting spirit products equal access in Ontario grocery stores, launched today at the Grain Farmers of Ontario's 2018 March Classic in London. In 2015 the Ontario government expanded beverage alcohol sales to select Ontario grocery stores, but specifically excluded spirits from this new retail opportunity. Ultimately beer, wine and cider will be available in up to 450 independent grocery stores across the province, but unless provincial policy changes, none of them will sell spirits. Over time this will significantly and negatively impact Ontario distillers and their supply chain of local grain farmers.
The campaign focuses on several important factors:
Equality – Canada's Low Risk Drinking Guidelines support equal beverage alcohol distribution. The guidelines are based on standard drinks and recognize that alcohol is alcohol, with positive outcomes when consumed in moderation, and negative consequences if abused. A 12oz bottle of beer at 5%, a 5oz glass of wine at 12%, and a cocktail with 1.5oz spirits at 40% all contain exactly the same amount of alcohol. Excluding spirits from grocery store sales is not fair and does not make sense.
Provincial Economy – Supporting 6,000 jobs across the province and contributing $1.5 billion annually to Ontario's Gross Provincial Product, the spirits industry is a major economic contributor, especially across rural Ontario. If restricted market access continues, spirit sales in Ontario will decline substantially, as consumers take advantage of the convenience of obtaining only select beverage alcohol when shopping for groceries, as opposed to all alcohol categories.
Supply Chain - For more than 200 years, Ontario distillers have been purchasing their grains including corn, wheat, rye and barley from local Ontario farmers. As a result, the local manufacture of the spirits industry is closely aligned with rural areas across the province, contributing to the economic viability and fabric of these communities. As the fourth largest buyer of Ontario corn, the success or failure of the spirits industry will have a direct impact on farmers across Ontario.
The Fairness for Ontario Spirits Campaign requests that spirits be afforded the same business opportunities as beer and wine, namely the opportunity to also be sold in licensed independent grocery stores. Spirits seeks the same treatment as other beverage alcohol products in Ontario – no more and no less.
"Restricting spirit sales is unwarranted, completely unfair, and will have devastating economic consequences if not reversed. We know this because it happened in Quebec. Since the Quebec government allowed wine and beer sales in grocery and corner stores, but not spirits, market share dropped from 40% to a mere 13%, decimating the spirits industry in that province. Distilleries closed, provincial operations were drastically reduced, and thousands of jobs were eliminated. There is no reason to believe the same thing will not happen here in Ontario," says Jan Westcott, President & CEO of Spirits Canada.
Adds Westcott, "Ontarians will always drink spirits. The question before us is, will those spirits be made right here in Ontario, from grains grown by Ontario farmers, or will they be imported from other countries, thereby creating jobs and economic opportunity elsewhere? We stand to lose quite a lot."
The Fairness for Ontario Spirits campaign will be visiting communities across southern Ontario during March, April and May of 2018 to promote spirit sales in grocery stores.