Suds shakeup

New brews may replace delisted brands at NLC

Published on September 19, 2012
Vicki Colbourne, category manager for spirits and beers for the Newfoundland Liquor Corp. displays import beers at the Kelsey Drive, St. John’s, location.  — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Passing through the beer cooler at a local Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) outlet, people craving a particular Alberta microbrewery product or a Mexican-brewed cerveza that’s not called Corona might find themselves out of luck.

That’s because NLC is revamping its beer stock. It’s an annual task for the NLC and Vicki Colbourne, the category manager for spirits, beer and ready-to-drink with the provincial Crown corporation.

“We do delist some brands, depending on if they’re slow sellers or not moving, and then we also bring in new (beverages),” said Colbourne.

If you have a taste for something different you can soon look forward to beers selected with the fall season in mind. They will be sold at NLC outlets as part of a one-time order.

Two varieties produced by Alberta brewer Big Rock will soon vanish from the Newfoundland and Labrador market. The current stock of Grasshopper Wheat Ale and Traditional Ale was dwindling as of Friday, with fewer than 20 12-packs of each left provincewide according to the NLC.

Other brands soon to be or already removed from store shelves include Holsten, Sol and DAB.

Colbourne said in some cases, suppliers elected to delist brands. Given the province’s small population, a supplier may choose to do so if the NLC is ordering small quantities of an certain brand.

“It becomes not worth their while to pack it and ship it to Newfoundland,” said Colbourne.

Fans of Big Rock may be surprised to see it leave local shelves given the strong labour market connections between Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta.


But Colbourne said slow sales were a factor in delisting that brand.

“It wasn’t selling very well here, to be honest,” she said. “It was among our lower sellers.”

Colbourne said the perishable nature of beer can make slow sales problematic for NLC.

“Sometimes there’s minimum order quantities, so we might have to order a pallet of product, and it might only be good for six months, and we know that a pallet of product is two years’ worth of inventory (based on past sales). Obviously it’s not viable to bring that in, because we’re going to be left with a year-and-a-half’s inventory that we’re going to have to get rid of, basically, at the cost to NLC.”


New brews

For the fall, NLC is rolling out several brews new to the provincial market — some are available now in select stores.

“In there you’ll see a lot of wheat beers and harvest ales,” said Colbourne, adding some are strictly seasonal products.”

Any brands that tend to do really well and get a lot of hype around them, we’ll look to bring them in throughout the year on a consistent basis.”

Fans of dark beer may gravitate towards Scottish brewer Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil Porter, described by the company as having a chocolately taste balanced by “a hoppy bitterness.”

Two pumpkin ales will be available for those craving a taste of autumn. Howe Sound Brewing’s Pumpkineater Imperial Pumpkin Ale comes from British Columbia in a one-litre bottle (it’s scheduled for a mid-October release). Mill Street from Toronto is selling its Pumpkin Ale as half of a fall six-pack sampler that will also include its Oktoberfest Lager. The sampler pack is due later this month.

Vermont microbrewery Magic Hat’s #9 is refered to as a “not quite pale ale” by the company. While that brand is new to the province, others are not. Innis & Gunn, Wytchwood Brewery, Krombacher and Faxe are among the brands that will have new-to-Newfoundland beers soon available for sale at NLC stores.

Colbourne said customers make suggestions throughout the year to NLC about what varieties to look out for.

“We take all those serious,” she said. “I keep a record of them, and as I’m talking to suppliers and agents who supply beer, if there’s something that’s being asked for a lot, I’ll mention it to them, and if it’s available to Newfoundland, then we tend to bring it in for the beer show (NLC’s annual Beer Fest), and we tend to give things listings if there tends to be a lot of consumers looking for them.”

NLC also relies on sales agents to inform the corporation on what brands are performing well in other markets or what are “new hot brands” it should consider selling.

“It comes down to customers, us doing our research, and us also trying to fill voids in our market,” said Colbourne.

Providing beers in a variety of styles is something NLC is conscious of, according to Colbourne. Lagers tend to dominate the local market, but she said interest is growing when it comes to other varieties.

Wheat beers are selling well, she said, as are single-serving beers in cans and bottles, given they allow customers the opportunity to sample styles from around the world.

Local beers are also selling well, and the NLC is attempting to strengthen those sales by grouping them together in corporate store coolers. New labels to identify beers based on where they come from are being introduced at these stores — North America, International and Local. Within those sections, beer is grouped together based on brand and style.

Others, such as Coors Light and Corona, get their own space in the cooler due to the amount of inventory kept for those brands.

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