MLCC Beer Listing Process

So, one thing that I’m asked and that I myself am really curious about, is the process the Manitoba Liquor Commission uses for selecting beers to sell.  Being the ever curious beer drinker I am, I started investigating and got a great deal of information from the source.

Laurel at the MLCC was incredible helpful and spent a great deal of time pulling the information together for me. I want thank her right from the get-go for her help in this matter.  Thank you Laurel!

The MLCC has a listing committee who follow the same procedures for every type of liquor product that is going to be listed for sale in Manitoba.  Producers and product reps are required to submit a listing application and sample of their product for review by the “Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Listing Committee”. (I’d like to be on that committee please.)

The decision as to whether to list a given product is based on the following factors:

  • sales statistics/trends from the previous year;
    • They evaluate statistics and trends based on the country of origin, style of product, packaging (whether it is a single serve/multi pack, can or bottle and container size), etc.
  • sales history for the brewery or brand family;
  • beer scores from online sources;
  • taste profile (taking into account all the different customer types that purchase beer);
  • innovation of labels;
  • limited, extremely rare special releases;
  • marketing strategy provided from agent/representative; and,
  • whether the product meets our social responsibility mandate.

Overall there are a lot of factors that go into considering whether a product is listed or not just at the committee level.  There are a number of other factors taken into consideration; ones the public can have a direct impact on and some we cannot.  The MLCC Category Manager and Product Ambassador for Beer regularly meet with existing producers to discuss the beers they are planning on releasing and to see if there are any seasonal or limited release offerings (like all the pumpkin beer we saw on the shelves in the fall). They also look at whether they are planning to send a representative to participate in tasting festivals, such as Flatlanders.

The main way we, the public, can have a direct impact on the liquor listing process is by requesting products.  Laurel told me this is a key factor they use for determining product listing. These requests can be submitted by email, social media, or local blogs.  I guess I better start spending more time talking about beers I want to come to Manitoba.

The MLCC is always looking for products and producers who are creating a buzz with customers; making these facts known through contacting the LC is one way we can hopefully see our favourite beers show up on Manitoba shelves. As Laurel said “we are listening and taking notes.”

When listing, the MLCC says they try to ensure there is a broad representation of beers from around the world as well as a broad representation of styles.  They use customer demand and buying habits as a means of determining what styles of beer to carry.  Over the past two years they have been trying to list more one-time seasonal beers from breweries to give more variety to the core list of beers they always carry and are constantly looking to add to their craft beer base. Laurel said “This year we have added to our core listings and will look to maintain if not increase the core listings going forward.”

An exciting point: Manitoba Liquor Marts are committed to supporting all licensed and regulated local breweries that are producing quality beer products.  This means that if you open a brewery in Manitoba and produce good beer that is legal to be sold, it will be carried at Manitoba Liquor Marts.  This is something I know I am excited to see as a slew of new craft breweries work toward their openings. I can’t wait to fill my fridge with a variety of local offerings.

Laurel wanted to highlight some of the initiatives that are coming out of the Manitoba government’s Craft Breweries Strategy.  She said this isn’t a complete list, but some of the steps that have been taken or are coming down the pipe include:

  • the expansion of craft beer growler bars (detailed announcement coming in late November/early December);
  • launching a website for new craft breweries to find information and local resources to help get their businesses started – see ManitobaBrewHub.ca;
  • licensing tasting rooms adjacent to local breweries; and
  • other internal process and policy reviews.

The big thing Laurel noted – I know I’ve seen this as well – is the vocal nature of the craft beer community.  Manitobans are starting to ask for better beer and there are a lot of people, myself included, who are passionate about good quality beer on Manitoban shelves.  Laurel said this group is “driving the demand for new and unique craft beers in the marketplace.”

There is a lot of information here and I am providing it to you to review and come to your own conclusions on what you think.  There are certainly some aspects of the criteria that I don’t agree with; I don’t think using previous years’ sales metrics will give an accurate measure of how well a new beer will sell here, but, from a corporate perspective, I understand it’s an important measure.  In the end, the MLCC needs to balance listing new products with being financially sound and it is heartening to see there are serious efforts being made to list more craft beers in Manitoba.

So, to you the people who read this blog, take action in the ways that we can! Start contacting the MLCC and let them know what beers you want to see on the shelves in Manitoba.  Be vocal, be passionate, and let’s keep pushing this cart forward.

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