After a morning meeting on Oct. 31, the first thing Sean Dunbar, the owner of Fredericton’s Picaroons Traditional Ales, did was visit a grocery store. It wasn’t because he needed to buy lunch, it was because he wanted to see his products being sold in New Brunswick stores other than Alcool NB Liquor (ANBL) for the first time.
“Right up to the last minute, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I know this is happening,’ but I want to see it sitting there on the shelf before I finally believe it.”
Starting on Oct. 31, over 40 different beer and cooler brands such as Budweiser, Coors and Moosehead, in addition to locally produced beers like Picaroons are ready for purchase in grocery stores like Sobeys and Superstore.
ANBL public relations specialist Tony Tremblay said the decision was made to please customers.
“After listening to our consumer demands, and our consumer needs, it became really apparent to us that that’s what our customers wanted. They wanted convenience. They wanted accessibility.”
Beers and coolers in individual cans and six-packs will be sold all day except from midnight to 6 a.m., said Tremblay.
He added prices will also differ from ANBL stores.
A CBC New Brunswick article said beer sold in grocery stores will come with a seven per cent minimum price increase.
In addition, grocery stores don’t include HST on their price tags while ANBL stores do.
After the success of the distribution of ciders and wine to grocery stores two years ago, ANBL thought it was an appropriate time to sell beer in grocery stores, said Tremblay. He doesn’t think it will affect sales of ANBL either because grocery stores will only be selling individual cans and six-packs.
Dunbar, also the president of the New Brunswick Craft Alcohol Producers Association, said placing beer in grocery stores has been one of the New Brunswick Craft Alcohol Producers Association’s goals for three or four years now, but it’s still hard to believe the goal came to fruition a couple of days ago.
“It never gets old to go into a store, to know that that you know you took water, grains, hops and yeast, and put it all together and you made a product and you can stand there and somebody is willing to buy it.”
“Yesterday, we got that on a whole new level.”
He said breweries had to step up their production levels a bit to prepare to sell at grocery stores across the province, but it’s nice to not be “hidden” in a liquor store.
“It’s an acceptance for your product as an industry.”
New Brunswick beers won’t be showing up in grocery stores across Canada anytime soon, but Dunbar said it’s still important to form those relationships.
“It gives us a little bit of a springboard.”
First-year St. Thomas University student Maurice Bosse said he didn’t even know New Brunswick started selling beers in grocery stores. Still, he said it didn’t really make that much of a difference besides providing people with another location to purchase alcohol.
“It’s not bad.”
STU student from Belgium Perry Colonval said seeing beer in grocery stores is just a switch back to normal. In Belgium, the legal drinking age for beer is 16.
“In most European countries, they already sell beer in grocery stores so when they announced it here, I was like it’s not anything new or anything … I didn’t buy beer to begin with anyways so I’m not impacted by it.”
For the future, Tremblay said ANBL has no plans to introduce tequila, whiskey, rum and other spirits to grocery stores.
Still, Tremblay said it’s nice for customers to have a one-stop shop.
“Being a world class retailer includes having great customer service and listening to your customers,” said Tremblay.