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BCLDB data show British Columbians are drinking less alcohol

BC is drinking less alcohol

British Columbians are drinking less alcohol, according to new British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) wholesale data.

The province’s monopoly booze distributor tracks and reveals to the public how much alcohol it sells wholesale to its own retail stores as well as to private stores, bars and restaurants.

It found that wholesale buyers spent $27,039,043 less on alcoholic drinks in the first three months of 2024 than they did in the same three months in 2023.

Those buyers spent $732,603,683 in January, February and March, or 3.56 per cent less than the $759,642,726 that they spent on wholesale alcohol in the province in those months one year earlier.

All major alcohol segments saw declines in wholesale volumes while almost all saw declines in dollars spent.

Wine

Wine continues its recent dominance as the alcohol category that nets the most wholesale spending. Wholesales for wine in B.C. fell 4.13 per cent to $230,113,787 in the fourth quarter of the BCLDB’s fiscal year, which ended March 31. In that quarter one year earlier, retailers and hospitality businesses in B.C. spent $240,028,722 on wine wholesales.

Wine wholesale volume was also down: to 14,401,983 litres, or by 752,541 litres (4.97 per cent) from 15,154,524 litres in the same quarter one year earlier.

The declines in wine wholesales came despite the Vancouver International Wine Festival holding its annual event in the quarter. In 2023, that festival was held in April.

That festival's theme region this year was Italy, and that country's wine wholesales fell a comparatively small 0.3 per cent in dollars, and 0.5 per cent by volume.

B.C. wine wholesales in the province dropped by one per cent to $108,229,484 from $109,345,571 in the same quarter in 2023. By volume wholesale buyers purchased 7,716,341 litres of B.C. wine, down four per cent from 8,041,298 litres in the quarter one year earlier.

Compared to pre-pandemic, spending on wine wholesales is up.

In the first three months of 2019, British Columbian wholesale buyers purchased $219,803,371 worth of wine. That makes spending on wine wholesales in the first three months of this year up about 4.7 per cent in dollars. By volume, however, sales are down from 15,778,134 litres in the first three months of 2019.

Beer

Beer, which pre-pandemic topped wine as the biggest-selling alcohol category, saw wholesales in the province fall 1.94 per cent in dollars and 6.2 per cent by volume.

Buyers purchased $227,530,284 worth of beer in the first three months of 2024, down $4,496,293 from $232,026,577 in the same quarter in 2023.

By volume those buyers stocked up with 53,243,936 litres of beer, down 3,519,375 litres from 56,763,311 litres in the first three months of 2023.

Compared with pre-pandemic, spending on beer wholesales in B.C. is down.

In the first three months of 2019, B.C. wholesale buyers purchased $228,874,241 worth of beer. By volume, those buyers purchased 60,044,448 litres of beer, or 12.77 per cent more than in the first three months of this year.

Spirits

The third largest major alcoholic-drink category is spirits, and its wholesales saw the steepest declines.

Buyers spent $189,815,459 on spirits wholesales in January, February and March, down $13,394,409, or 6.59 per cent, from $203,209,868 in the same quarter in 2023.

By volume, wholesales for spirits fell by 408,763 litres, or 6.4 per cent: to 5,958,010 litres from 6,366,773, according to the BCLDB.

All spirits categories were down in volume and dollars, except for the small Asian spirits category, where buyers spent $2,812,944 in the first three months of 2024, up $22,150, or 0.8 per cent from $2,790,794 in the same three months in 2023.

Other niche spirits, such as Pisco and Cachaca, saw marginally more spending while the volume of Pisco also rose slightly.

Ready-to-serve cocktail drinks were categorized in the spirits division. They saw a 37.1-per-cent bump in volume purchased: to 72,773 litres from 53,066 litres; and in amount spent: up 39.5 per cent to $1,663,847 from $1,192,405, but their sales were a tiny part of overall spirits wholesales.

Refreshment beverages

The smallest major category of alcohol wholesales is the refreshment category, which includes ciders and coolers.

It was the only one in which there was an increase in wholesales: $85,144,153 in January, February and March, up $776,594, or 0.9 per cent, from $84,377,559 spent in the same quarter one year ago.

Despite that hike in dollars spent, buyers purchased less volume.

The retailers and hospitality clients bought 15,879,349 litres of refreshment drinks in the quarter, down 419,081 litres, or 2.57 per cent, from 16,298,430 litres in the first three months of 2023.

The BCLDB wholesales the rare bottle of non-alcoholic wine but its sales in that category are so small that the organization does not report them.

Sales for non-alcoholic wine have been increasing, according to distributors BIV spoke with earlier this year.



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