PCs to NSLC: Don’t put local beer producers at a disadvantage during the pandemic

Local beer producers are asking the NSLC to reverse a harmful policy that will result in their beverages being removed from shelves in the middle of a pandemic. The PCs have joined the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia in asking for the process to be halted until the end of 2021.

‘Delisting’—the process of removing products from NSLC shelves, often beverages from local brewers—has continued during the current wave of restrictions. It is determined by a complicated formula that sees small brewers fight for shelf space based on sales.

Delisting has already begun for this year, but many products haven’t yet been pulled from stores.

“I’m disappointed to see local products being removed from stores at a time when many businesses are hanging by a thread,” says Karla MacFarlane, MLA for Pictou West. “Businesses have been given little help during this lockdown. The least the government can do is refrain from removing their product from stores.”

Uncle Leo’s Brewery in Pictou County says it struggles under the formula, especially now that people aren’t in the NSLC to leisurely shop. With the NSLC earning record profits during the pandemic, people have spent more money but less time in stores considering new products.

“During COVID-19, it’s been a ‘get in, get your product, and get out,’ situation,” said Murray Ryan, PC MLA for Northside-Westmount and critic for the NSLC. “The current formula and the current reality in Nova Scotia is creating a perfect storm that sees local brewers fall further behind.”

The sales threshold is $230,000 just to stay in the store. When product placement is poor, it’s difficult to meet that target. However, when product placement is equal—like in a recent 10-week pilot project—Uncle Leo’s could compete with other brewers.

“The NSLC has a mandate to showcase local brewers, not delist them,” says Ryan, who echoes calls for clear goals and measurable targets to determine success. “This change will cost the government nothing, and will potentially save businesses and people from being out of work.”

MacFarlane says the delisting process is difficult to weather even in the best of times.

“The right thing to do is to stop delisting until the end of the year,” she says. “There needs to be a better plan to support local producers.”


Further quotes

“As a rurally situated microbrewery here in Nova Scotia, we rely largely on our NSLC listings to maintain operations year-round. Specifically with a heavy dependency throughout the winter months due to our highly seasonal location. The loss of our one single-serve general listing with the NSLC could be enough for us to close our doors.”

Rebecca Atkinson, Owner
Sober Island Brewing Company Ltd.
Sheet Harbour, NS

“Route 19's experience with the NSLC as a new brewery has been positive and I believe we have a great relationship overall. I just feel there are some things that should be addressed for smaller brewers - such as shelf placement; it is hard to make a real impact as a smaller brewer with an OTO (One Time Only) listing to graduate to a GL (General) listing if that's your intent, if you're only being offered poor shelf placement and limited stores. It doesn't mean your product isn't good or won't sell, but the current model doesn't really align you for success.”

Evan Gillis
Route 19 Brewing Inc, Partner
Inverness, NS

“We found out about a new minimum performance requirement through a warning email that a product of ours could be taken out of the NSLC. We’ve since found out that a number of other smaller breweries have received this same warning. This new performance requirement is currently only being achieved by 6 to 8 breweries in the province. This leaves approximately 23 smaller, mostly rural, NS craft breweries in a situation where they are at high risk of having their products taken out of the NSC; many having already received a warning to that effect. Not only will this hurt small businesses that are already hurting because of Covid-19 but the craft beer landscape in Nova Scotia will be a lot less diverse.”

Karl Whiffen
Uncle Leo’s Brewery, Owner/Brewer
Lyon’s Brook, NS

“The NSLC's unfair playing field has to be changed. Every NS Craft Brewery should be allowed to have a listing regardless of size a location rather than just a few having multiple listings. If they cannot accommodate then they should allow NS Craft Breweries to sell other NS Craft Brewers products in their own storefronts.”

Mark Baillie, Owner/Brewer
Hell Bay Brewing
Liverpool, NS


"CBANS strongly supports the NSLC pressing pause on actions or policies that negatively affect NS craft brewers. With restaurants, taprooms and events locked down for the third time and tourists turned away, this pandemic has been particularly hard on the small and rural producers. Solutions are needed that allow larger craft brewers to continue growing the market and smaller brewers to proudly represent nearly every corner of this province. Our industry is strong, diverse and award-winning, and Nova Scotia is better for it staying that way”

Brian Titus, President
Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia