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This suds for you

What's the frothiest food and drink category going? It's craft beer, with rising sales and more breweries everywhere—from B.C. to Belgium

Beer is the most popular acohol beverage in Canada, but sales of national brands from the big brewers (Labatt, Molson, Sleeman, etc.) are slowing. All the action is from independent craft brewers, with sales growing by double digits.

The number of craft brewers has soared as well. Estimates are that craft beer has 6% to 7% of the total Canadian beer market, with growth of one percentage point a year.

There are four reasons that craft beer sales are up: one, interest in high-quality beverages and unique flavours by younger generations; two, the growing number of craft brewers in Canada; three, the opening of more retail space available to craft brewers; and, four, more government financial support for independent brewers, cideries and wineries.

The Financial Post reports there are now 520 craft breweries in Canada and the number of breweries is increasing by more than 20% a year.

Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, permitted beer sales in 60 grocery stores last fall and will allow 70 more stores to stock suds this year. That’s a boon for craft brewers because more consumers get to see their products.

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Craft beer is a rapidly expanding industry in Ontario, employing more than 1,500 people in direct brewery jobs and generating more than $69 million in sales last year at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Currently, there are approximately 174 craft breweries across Ontario, about 70 of which sell through the LCBO network. According to Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, this sector has seen significant year-over-year increases in revenues—up nearly 35% annually in 2015-2016. The federal and provincial govern ments have pledged $1.6 million to help Ontario’s craft brewers.

The success of craft beer in Ontario is mirrored across the country. British Columbia now has 108 craft breweries, while Quebec has 126. There are 23 in Alberta and 15 in Saskatchewan. Nova Scotia has 30, New Brunswick 20 and even P.E.I., Newfoundland and the Territories have three each.

Growth in craft beer isn’t restricted just to Canada. I reached out to a number of colleagues at grocery magazines around the world; they all reported rising interest and sales. Jeff Osterroth at Atoz in the Czech Republic, told me that craft beer is a “big topic on the Czech market, which has the highest consumption of beer per capita.” Craft beer only has 1% to 2% of the country’s beer market at the moment, but “new breweries are popping up every week,” he says.

Tys Hellema, at Distrifood in the Netherlands, says that this year already 38 new breweries have started. “In total, we have 422 breweries in the Netherlands. To compare: 30 years ago we only had 27 breweries.”

And from Daniel Selwood at The Grocer in Britain: “Craft lager has enjoyed a veritable explosion in the U.K.,” first in restaurants and bars, and now at retail outlets.

In Belgium, craft beer is becoming “trendy” says Christophe Sancy at Gondola. “According to the official figures, the number of breweries grew in 2015 from 168 to 199. But these are official figures, and last time we checked (end 2015), we found 302 breweries or producers in Belgium,” he says. Other grocery magazine colleagues in Norway, Russia, South Korea and New Zealand are equally bubbly about the growth of craft beer in their countries.

So it seems no matter where you are in the world, you can enjoy a delightful craft beer. Cheers!

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