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Major Quebec c-store launches microbrew beer project

Focus group study showed a need to offer wider fervidity of artisanal beers

Finding micro-brewed beer just got a whole lot easier for suds-loving Quebecers.

Starting this week, CST Canada's Dépanneur du Coin/Corner Store network will begin selling products of more than a dozen microbreweries in la belle province.

Dubbed Microbrasseurs du Coin, the program devotes six feet of floor space to the sale of single, four- and six-pack, and mix-and-match bottles and cans of artisanal beers at 40 CST stores, which are mostly affiliated with Ultramar gas stations across Quebec.

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"Our ambition is to delight more customers every day," Sophie Provencher, CST Canada's director of marketing and commercialization, and the person responsible for Ultramar and Corner Store strategies, told Canadian Grocer.

The idea for the program came earlier this year from CST's marketing and merchandising team. "We noticed the craft beer market was well developed in the U.S. compared to Canada," she said.

A focus group conducted this summer also suggested a need to offer a larger variety of artisanal beers in CST's Quebec stores.

With the help of Quebec beer expert Philippe Wouters, CST put together a lineup of established local brewers–from Brasseurs du Temps in the Ottawa region to Le Pit Caribou in Gaspé–with the wherewithal to produce and deliver sufficient quantities of their best beers.

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"We selected brewers from all regions (and) stores will carry the same selection with greater representation for local brewers with respect to the store location," said Provencher.

Once the brewers were on board, CST came up with an in-store and multimedia marketing strategy aimed at making Microbrasseur du Coin sections "a destination," she said.

In addition to buying locally-brewed beers, shoppers can also try new brands from other regions by buying a Découverte (or discovery) pack of four 500-ml bottles for $18.99, or four 473-ml cans for $9.99.

The mix-and-match promotion is designed, said Provencher, "to provide (customers) with a great shopping experience."

For their part, the brewers involved are excited about the opportunity to showcase their products to more beer drinkers.

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"This is a great program for us and our industry," said Frédérick Tremblay, president of both his own participating microbrewery–MicroBrasserie Charelovoix in Baie St. Paul, an hour's drive east of Quebec City–and the Association des microbrasseries du Québec.

According to Tremblay, his association's 140 members, which include a roughly even mix of brew-pubs and microbreweries, have enjoyed steady growth in recent years, and now account for 8.1% of total beer sales in Quebec stores.

"We're working hard to make our industry grow," said Tremblay.  "Programs like CST's help by giving us more visibility and the opportunity for more people to try our products."



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