Hard liquor producers want in on supermarket sales

The government may soon allow wine and beer sales at grocery stores and now Ontario's distilleries want in.

If Ontario allows beer and wine sold in supermarkets, liquor should be too, says Spirits Canada

If Ontario moves to allow the sale of wine and beer in supermarkets, distilleries don't want to be left out. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC News)

Ontario's liquor distilleries do not want to be left out if wine and beer are allowed to be sold in grocery stores across the province.

Last month, Ontario's economic development minister would not confirm if the province is considering the change, following a report in the Toronto Star that the spring budget will include changes to the way beer and wine is sold in Ontario.

But he didn't deny it, either.

Kathleen Wynne said changes are coming to the way beer, wine and spirits are sold once a review is completed of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and its relationship with the Beer Store and wine retailers.

Fear of plunging sales

The potential change has the president of Spirits Canada, an organization representing hard liquor producers across the country, on edge.

Jan Westcott said he fears a repeat of what happened in Quebec, when wine — and later beer — were made available in supermarkets.

"As an Ontario industry that produces its products in Ontario, buys all of its grain in Ontario, sources 100 per cent of its inputs in Ontario, we're a little concerned — actually, quite concerned — that this will have a very negative impact on us," he said.

Westcott said the share of the alcohol market going to spirits plunged in Quebec from 40 to 13 per cent after that province opened up wine and beer sales.

He says the perception is hard liquor is more dangerous than wine or beer, and says that belief will shut it out of plans to make alcohol more readily available to consumers.

"Health Canada is adamant that all alcohol is equal, and they will provide the same positive health effects if you use them properly, and of course they all provide the same harms or potential harms if you use them improperly," Westcott said.

"But it may be that we're just being subjected to some outdated thinking on this."


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