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    WI Grocers Tap Lawmakers to Change Beer Rules

    Association backs effort to let shoppers fill growlers from in-store taps

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ

    The latest campaign among efforts nationwide to make it easier for grocers to sell spirits is being waged in Wisconsin, where the state’s retail trade group is urging lawmakers to allow its members to offer beer on tap for filling take-home growlers.

    The Wisconsin Grocers Association wants to amend the state’s Class A liquor license, which allows supermarkets to sell packaged beer and liquor, to allow shoppers to fill their half-gallon refillable glass containers with fresh beer.

    This effort comes as craft beer continues to be a growth segment in the spirits aisle and grocers seek to push their offerings beyond the typical 6- and 12-packs, and mix-and-match offerings. “The industry, really around the country, has been moving in this direction,” Marlin Greenfield, SVP and COO for 20-store independent chain Festival Foods, told WISC-TV in Madison.

    The proposed change would not allow on-premise consumption, but that hasn’t stopped Wisconsin’s tavern owners from opposing the measure, arguing that it would tread too far into their territory. But grocers contend filling growlers won’t replace a night out: “Their increased awareness and interest in craft brews is good for the entire industry, whether it’s at home consumption or in a bar or in a restaurant,” Greenfield told WISC-TV.

    Keeping Wisconsin On Trend

    According to WGA, Wisconsin ranks ninth nationally in craft breweries per capita, with more than 60 breweries. “Yet our growler laws are behind that average,” the group asserts. “A number of states have passed legislation allowing grocery stores to sell and fill growlers with success.”

    WGA further explains in its position paper on the issue: “For grocers, being able to fill growlers for off-premise consumption allows them to feature local craft beer in their stores and to meet the growing demands of their customers. Many of Wisconsin’s local microbreweries are not large enough to bottle their beer for mass production, giving them a disadvantage compared to the larger, national brewing companies. In addition, not all beers are available in bottles or cans, especially seasonal or hand-crafted beers, and the growler allows enthusiasts to get the beer straight from the source.”

    And, as the group notes, growlers are environmentally friendly because they are refilled and there is no additional packaging waste.

    “Allowing growlers will be economically advantageous for Wisconsin as a whole, as it would help promote Wisconsin businesses and bring in additional revenue,” WGA declares, noting that craft beer sales have seen steady double-digit increases over the past three years.

    WGA is asking Wisconsinites to tell their local legislators to allow grocers to fill growlers.

    As grocers seek new and innovative ways to enhance the shopper experience, WGA’s initiative would be a great step forward for supermarket shoppers in America’s Dairyland.

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

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