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B.C. drinkers shift to spirits, away from beer and wine

Vodka is by far the most purchased product in the spirits category.
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Two people clink glasses before enjoying some bourbon.

British Columbians this spring have shifted away from drinking beer, wine and coolers, in favour of hard alcohol, according to new data from the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB.)

Data from the provincially owned alcohol seller to government owned stores, private liquor stores, restaurants, bars and pubs showed that spirits was the only alcohol category to see sales growth both in volume and in dollars spent. 

Overall, alcohol buyers in the province spent $932,898,221 before taxes on booze in the three months ended June 30. That is up 3.7 per cent from the same quarter a year ago. 

Alcohol buyers in the province spent $242,313,304 before taxes on hard alcohol, or spirits, in the three months ended June 30 — up nearly 10.5 per cent compared with $219,316,720 in the same quarter a year earlier. By volume, shoppers bought 7,850,310 litres of hard alcohol in B.C. in the quarter — up more than five per cent from the 7,444,848 litres purchased in the same quarter in 2021.

Beer was the alcohol category that fared almost the worst this spring.

British Columbians shelled out more for beer than any other alcohol category in the quarter ended June 30, 2021 — $298,679,047 before taxes. That fell more than one per cent to $295,555,932 before taxes in the same quarter this year. By volume, beer sales in B.C. fell more than 3.7 per cent to 73,404,758 litres in the quarter that ended June 30.

The refreshment category that includes ciders, coolers and similar drinks saw the most precipitous declines — both in terms of total dollars spent (down 7.3 per cent by dollars to $122,942,628 before taxes) and volume purchased (down 12.2 per cent to 25,318,658 litres.)

This year had significantly cooler weather than last spring so that may have played a role in less demand for those beverages.

Wine was the category that had mixed results in the quarter ended June 30. The good news for the category is that it enjoyed a nearly 8.6-per-cent sales gain, to $306,521,119 before taxes, from $282,332,502 before taxes in the same quarter last year. That bump in dollars spent means that wine is newly the drinks category for which buyers spend the most.

Inflation and perhaps a willingness to buy more premium products meant that wine buyers spent that money on less wine. The total volume of wine sales in the province fell by more than 0.4 per cent to 19,140,409 litres, from 19,223,920 litres in the same quarter a year ago. 

Within the spirits category, vodka is by far the most purchased product, at 2,473,229 litres in the three months ended June 30. That is up slightly from the 2,449,714 litres purchased in the same quarter a year ago. Less than 10 per cent of purchased vodka is flavoured vodka. 

Some of the other popular spirits by volume in the quarter ended June 30 include:
• whisky (or whiskey, as the total includes products from the U.S. and Ireland, which spell the drink with an "e"): 1,969,576 litres;
• rum: 913,358 litres;
• gin: 553,694 litres; and
• tequila: 482,361 litres.

Vodka this year, however, lost the honour of being the spirit that buyers spent the most money on.

Last year, buyers spent $62,476,288 before tax on vodka in the quarter ending June 30. That bettered the $60,307,906 before tax that they spent on whisky/whiskey during the same quarter.

This year, buyers in B.C. increased quarterly spending on vodka by more than three per cent, to $64,356,340 before tax, but that spending was less than the $70,021,224 before tax that they spent on whisky and whiskey – a 16.1-per-cent jump.

To view the full statistics package, click here

gkorstrom@biv.com

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