The province is introducing a new framework that will allow beer to be sold in grocery stores.
On Sept. 23, the province announced grocery retailers can now bid to be one of 450 stores to sell beer, starting with 60 locations to be announced this December. Eligible stores must meet certain criteria, including setting standard hours of sale and providing rigorous staff training.
In addition, new agreements negotiated with The Beer Store are expected to “level the playing field for Ontario-based brewers,” according to a news release. In particular, the new framework is expected to provide more room for craft brewers to enter the market.
The agreements provide for 20 per cent minimum shelf space for small brewers in The Beer Store network, open up ownership to the Ontario beer industry, and provide savings for brewers that are not current owners in The Beer Store network.
The province is making other changes to beer-retailing in Ontario. Ten LCBO stores around the province are now selling 12 packs of beer as part of a pilot program, and 25 LCBO locations will soon have Craft Beer Zones, which promote the province’s craft breweries.
Since April 1, the LCBO has listed 52 new craft beers, the fastest growing component of the market. In 2014-2015, sales of Ontario craft beer grew at the LCBO to more than $68 million, up nearly 36 per cent from the previous year.
The North is home to a number of craft breweries, including Lake of the Woods Brewing Company in Kenora, New Ontario Brewing Company in North Bay, Stack Brewing in Sudbury, and OutSpoken Brewing in Sault Ste. Marie.
Grocery stores have until November 6 to submit a bid to the province.