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New liquor laws lift Okanagan spirits

Liquor industry insiders are tipping their glasses for the new liquor laws introduced by the BC government Thursday.

Among those most delighted, the BC Wine Institute, which learned Thursday VQA wines will be allowed on grocery store shelves beginning sometime in early 2015.

Miles Prodan, President of the BC Wine Institute, says putting VQA wines in grocery stores means a new retail channel for wineries in the Okanagan.

Up until now, wineries had the opportunity to sell their products in house and at private or government liquor stores.

Prodan adds the new regulations have the potential for a great fit.

"We see an opportunity for the farm to table or buy local, and hopefully the grocery stores see likewise," says Prodan.

"Pairing 100 per cent BC VQA wine with local BC produce is the ultimate pairing and it's a chance for consumers to recognize that and get their BC wine when they are getting their BC agri-food and the rest of it."

Prodan says details are still being ironed out, but does confirm there are two different grocery store models.

One is the store-within-a-store model and the in-aisle model that is being offered to VQA wines only.

He adds that the BC Wine Institute has been told it will be consulted as the details of the program are rolled out.

Prodan also says the new program will give the wine institute the opportunity to further educate the buying public.

"We like to have consumers think about wine as a food quite frankly," says Prodan.

"BC VQA wine is known worldwide from all the awards we win for its ability to pair with food so food pairing, tastings and educating consumers what goes with what and how much wine can enhance a meal. It's a perfect opportunity within a grocery store."

According to information released by the government a limited number of new licences will be available for grocery stores wishing to stock VQA wines on shelves.

That is not the case with the store-within-a-store model.

It does mean grocery stores will be able to sell other wines, beer and hard liquor, if they have a licence. But no new licences will be made available by the provincial government for the store within-a-store model; and that, according to Metro Liquor senior product consultant, Jim Martin, could be problematic for many grocery stores.

"A Safeway or Sobery's or whoever would have to partner up with an existing licence and that would cut into the profit of that existing store," says Martin.

"Or if (a grocery store) wanted to purchase a licence, they could but that price has, as of yesterday, gone up to close to $1M or more. Does somebody want to do that and have to renovate their store to accommodate the new store. There are a lot questions a retailer would have to think about before approaching this."

As a private retailer, Martin says he is not concerned with the way the new program is being rolled out.

What he is pleased to see is a pledge to go to wholesale pricing across the board for both private and government liquor outlets.

Martin says private liquor stores currently do not buy product at wholesale prices as government liquor stores do.

He says they currently purchase at 16 per cent off of the liquor store price.

"Going to wholesale pricing we'll be on par with the government liquor stores. Whatever they buy at wholesale, we'll buy at wholesale.

Now the playing field has been levelled. That's what I've personally wanted for years now."

Martin says theoretically, prices in private liquor stores could come down.

"But I don't know how it will play out."

 

 

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