Craft Beer Continues to Gain Ground In Competitive Market

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The Canadian beer industry continues to be dominated by a select few large players, but as customers’ palates diversify, the market is seeing a rise in smaller craft breweries. 

In 2016, the craft-beer segment represented six per cent of total beer market share in Ontario, but over the past three years, it’s shown continuous growth — reaching 8.9 per cent in 2018 — and forecasts show the segment was expected to grow by 10 per cent or more through 2019, according to Toronto-based Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB).

A number of factors, including advancements in technology and the introduction of beer in grocery stores, have given craft beer a much-needed boost. There are currently 375 grocery stores selling beer in Ontario, with 15 per cent of beer sales being attributed to craft products, according to OCB. 

There is, however, concern surrounding the potential for over saturation of the craft-beer market, as more local operations seek to ride the wave of its new-found popularity. 

But Jeff Dornan, president of All or Nothing — a craft brewery located in Oshawa, Ont. — and chairman of the OCB, says while some may have a gloomy outlook on the state of craft beer, he sees a bright future ahead. 

“I still see nothing but growth. When you look at our volume in percentage of market share in Ontario, we’re barely scratching the surface. There’s a lot of excitement and growth yet to occur,” he explains.  

For now, national brands are controlling the Canadian beer market, with two breweries — Molson Coors Brewing Company and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV — representing just under half of the Canadian beer market. According to a 2019 study done by U.S.- based IBIS World, the two brewing behemoths control 49.8 per cent of the Canadian beer market. 

The Molson Canadian and Coors Light brands currently hold a 33.3 per cent share of the entire market, while Anheuser-Busch controls 16.5 per cent of the market with popular brands such as Budweiser, Stella Artois and Labatt. The third-highest market share of any brewery in Canada belongs to Moosehead Breweries — Canada’s oldest independent brewery — with a 3.9-per-cent market share. 

While these big names continue to lead the pack, craft breweries continue to forge ahead, aided by each beer’s distinct flavour and each brewery’s unique feel. 

“There’s a sense of adventure, says Dornan. “We get people constantly coming in as a tourist attraction. Every brewery has its own kind of flavour profile — you could taste two lagers from two different breweries and they taste completely different — and that adds a sense of adventure.”

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