When Canadians think of Canadian beer, a few names come to mind: Molson, Labatt, Kokanee, Alexander Keith's. However, over the past few years, Canada’s beer producers have increasingly been bought up by foreign business interests. Today, each of those mentioned is owned by non-Canadian companies.
Molson merged with Coors, and now has its main base in Denver, and the rest are owned by Anheuser-Busch/InBev. Canada's three largest breweries are now foreign-owned, and according to Ontario's Beer Store, each of the top-ten-selling beers is owned by non-Canadian entities. Today's largest independent Canadian brewer is the relatively small Moosehead.
Despite this, sales of “domestic” beers are officially still higher than “imported” beers. Since there are few Canadian-based brewers today, how is that possible? It's simple: the guidelines around “domestic” beer are loose. Major global brands, such as Budweiser, Coors, and Labatt are all considered domestic Canadian beers. In addition, the slim selection of beers considered “imported” are cornering a growing amount of the Canadian market. Beer imports have gone from $69 million in 1994 to $335 million in 2003.
This may seem like a relatively minor problem, but it is important to Canadians because they enjoy their suds. Canadians drink more than 66 litres per capita every year and, according to recent studies, one out of every 100 jobs in Canada is directly affected by beer sales. Considering how important beer is to Canada's cultural identity and economy, the current state of Canadian beer is worrying. While individual business takeovers involving these companies have been covered by mainstream outlets, the total combined effect has not been added up.
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Canada. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, "The Canadian Brewery Industry." Accessed February 24, 2015. http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/industry-markets-and-trade/statistics-and-market-information/by-product-sector/processed-food-and-beverages/the-canadian-brewery-industry/?id=1171560813521.
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The Beer Store, "Top Ten." Accessed February 23, 2015. http://www.thebeerstore.ca/beers/big-10-brands.
The Beer Store, "Beer Results." The Beer Store. Accessed February 24, 2015. http://www.thebeerstore.ca/beers/search/country--Canada.
Student researcher: Eric Westerhaver (University of Regina)
Faculty advisor: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)