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First beer, now cider comes to Ontario supermarkets

Ontario also looking for more grocery stores that want to sell beer

The first 60 grocery stores in Ontario allowed to sell beer can now add ciders to their shelves.

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is also seeking bids for another 70 grocery stores to sell beer, cider and wine starting this fall.

The province’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, said craft producers have turned locally made cider into one of Ontario's emerging success stories.

The LCBO reported sales of locally produced craft cider increased 54% last year to $5.1 million, while sales of Ontario craft beer rose 35% to $69 million.

Wynne visited a Sobeys store in Waterloo to announce the next step in the province's modernization of the way alcoholic beverages are sold, the first real changes since prohibition ended in 1927.

Thomas Wilson, chair of the Ontario Craft Cider Association (OCCA), told Canadian Grocer that adding ciders to supermarkets is a "huge" boost to cider makers as it will provide more shelf space to get in front of consumers.

"It's another channel for us. There's only so much shelf space in the LCBO stores," said Wilson, who is also the owner of Spirit Tree Estate Cidery, a cider maker in Caledon, Ont.

The craft cider market "didn't exist as an industry" only a few years ago, Wilson said, but is now taking off. The OCCA currently has 25 members and Wilson hopes to have 50 members next year.

On Friday, Loblaw Companies said it would reserve 50% of cider shelf space in its Ontario stores to craft ciders from the province. (Nineteen Ontario Loblaw stores are allowed to sell beer and cider at the moment.)

The decision demonstrates Loblaw's commitment "to providing equal shelf space for Ontario's craft producers," Greg Ramier, senior vice-president of Loblaw, said in a statement issued by the OCCA.

Ontario started allowing sales of six packs of beer in several dozen grocery stores last December, and they sold $7.9 million worth of suds in the first four months.

The plan is to eventually have up to 300 grocery stores, both large chains and smaller independents, selling wine, beer and cider, and another 150 grocers could be authorized to sell just beer and cider.

In addition, 150 of the 292 existing private retail wine outlets that operate just outside grocery stores will be allowed to move inside, use a shared checkout, and expand their product lines to include any Ontario produced wines.

When the Ontario grocery stores are given the green light to start selling wine later this year, they will have to charge a minimum price of $10.95 a bottle.

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