It’s unlikely to stir a national identity crisis, at least not yet, but Canadians may need some time to reflect on a noticeable shift in their alcohol consumption habits.
New Statistics Canada data shows that wine is selling at a much faster pace than beer, leading to a meaningful drop in market share for the country’s favourite alcoholic beverage.
Beer’s market share fell to 44 per cent in 2012, down from 50 per cent in 2002, StatsCan said this week. Meantime, wine’s market share grew to 31 per cent from 24 per cent over the same period. Spirits remained steady at around 25 per cent.
“Beer remained the alcoholic drink of choice for Canadians, but preferences are changing,” StatsCan said in a recent report.
Beer's decline isn't a reflection of Canadians drinking less. StatsCan says beer, wine and spirits sales together were up three per cent to $20.9 billion in 2012, compared to the year before. By litres of alcohol, sales volumes also grew by 3.5 per cent to 236.2 million litres.
While beer is still the overall top seller, analysts say the growing switch to other alcoholic drinks is due largely to the increased selection of wines and spirits from Canada, and around the world. There's also the perception among some health-conscious Canadians that grapes in wine are healthier than hops in beer.
“Our alcohol tastes are maturing,” David Ian Gray, a retail consultant and founder of Vancouver-based DIG360 Consulting Ltd. “We’re moving from a time when people drank mostly a few brands of beer, such as Molson and Labatt's, to today where we have more diverse tastes and appreciation of wine and other drinks.”
Gray says spirits companies are also doing more marketing and advertising of their products, particularly to the younger, influential buyers in theirs 20s and 30s.
Wine sales totaled $6.5 billion for the year ended March 31, 2012, with gains in all provinces and territories except Nunavut. The volume of wine sales also grew by 3.8 per cent to 488 million litres. Imported wine sales were up 4.5 per cent, while domestic sales rose 2.8 per cent.
More consumers are also drinking red wine, which accounted for 57 per cent of total wines sales in 2012, as compared to 48 per cent a decade ago.
The sales of spirits were $5.3 billion last year, driven by a 4.7-per-cent increase in whiskey sales and two-per-cent rise in liqueurs.
Beer sales came in at $9.2 billion in fiscal 2012, with Alberta reported the highest gain in sales at 7.1 per cent. Across Canada, domestic beer sales grew 1.4 per cent, while imported beer grew slower at 0.7 per cent. Still, the market share of domestic beer sold in Canada has fallen over the past decade, to 86 per cent in 2012 from 92 per cent in 2002.