Canadian Manufacturing

Challenging times for Canada’s beer industry: Beer Canada

by CM Staff   

Canadian Manufacturing
Manufacturing Food & Beverage

The trends update shows the number of breweries is growing but domestic sales are in decline

Beer sales are down, with the number of breweries growing. PHOTO: Sampling beers/Paul Joseph via Wikimedia Commons

OTTAWA — Beer business in Canada was challenging before the COVID-19 pandemic with domestic beer sales falling as the number of breweries increases, according to Beer Canada‘s Industry Trends update that covers the past five years.

The industry association representing 50 Canadian brewers reports the number of breweries hit an all-time high of 1,123 in 2019, nearly tripling the number operating five years ago.

Ontario leads with 350 breweries followed by Québec with 240. But beer sales fell 3.9% last year. Imported beer sales were down by 1.5%. Overall total sales decreased by 3% between 2018 and 2019.

More brewers selling into a smaller market translates into intense competition. Canadian brewers face this and many other challenges – changing demographics and consumer tastes, the high overall tax and price of the product and now, the effects of an unprecedented global crisis impacting health, jobs and business.

Related: Labatt moving into new segments as alcohol market gets crowded

COVID-19 won’t help sales. Beer’s most popular selling season is around the corner and patios and pubs are shut down, while sports, festivals and social gatherings have been cancelled.

Beer Canada expects this to have a direct impact on the industry, which directly employ 15,000 Canadians and pay nearly $1 billion in salaries and wages.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  • In 2019, 87% of beer sales were products of 5.5% alcohol by volume or less.
  • Per capita beer drinking slid to 71.2 litres from 79.5 litres five years ago.
  • Saskatchewan had the sharpest year-over-year decline in beer sales, down 7.8%.
  • Every province saw beer sales decrease in 2019, with national total sales down 3%.

Canadian brewing companies account for 90% of beer made in Canada and a category that supports 149,000 jobs, $13.6 billion in real gross domestic product and $5.7 billion in tax revenues for federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.


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