British Columbia

'Anything pink is huge': Record setting year for liquor sales in B.C.

Recent statistics from the Liquor Distribution Branch show British Columbians are enjoying wine and hard alcohol at record levels, along with other refreshments like those fruity vodka coolers tearing up the market.

Legal cannabis market evolving slower than expected

Liquor store shoppers average $36.57 in transactions at the check-out. (B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch)

Recent statistics from the Liquor Distribution Branch show British Columbians are enjoying wine and hard liquor at record breaking levels, along with other refreshments like those fruity vodka coolers tearing up the market.

According to the BC Liquor Distribution Branch's (LDB) 2018/2019 annual report released last month, total sales reached $3.6 billion, up $95 million this fiscal year over last.

The area with the highest growth was what LDB categorizes as refreshments — and those include ciders, breezers, spritzers and vodka, gin and wine sodas. 

"Anything pink is huge," said Viviana Zanocco, the manager of corporate communications with the LDB. "They may be viewed by some as healthier alternatives and, certainly, less filling than other beverages," said Zanocco.

Spike in sales

Total sales in the refreshment category amounted to $45 million, a 20.4 per cent jump over the previous year and a 76 per cent spike since the 2014/2015 fiscal year.

Sales of vodka coolers and other refreshments have spiked 76 per cent since 2014/2015. (@nudevodkasoda/Instagram and @nutrlvodka/Instagram)

Refreshments up, beer down 

All categories showed growth except beer which declined by $5.1 million or 0.4 per cent with total sales of close to $1.2 billion.

British Columbians still enjoy spirits and wine, with total sales in those categories adding up to $2.1 billion.

For the six months since it was legalized in October 2018, B.C. cannabis sales totalled $18 million. 

The LDB report said supply shortages and slower than anticipated regulatory approvals meant the cannabis market was evolving at a slower than expected rate.

Consumers, however, overwhelmingly chose to buy their pot products from non-legal sources.

Statistics Canada recently estimated 65 per cent of pot sales were illegal compared to 35 per cent legal sales.

"We hope to have 10 to 15 cannabis stores open by the end of the year, and that's proceeding on pace," said Zanocco.

The BCLDB says, on average, customers spent $36.57 a transaction at the liquor store check-out counter.

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