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Oh, Canada: A nation of beer drinkers turns increasingly to wine Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Thursday, April 11, 2013.

Follow Michael Babad and the Globe’s top business stories on Twitter.

Of beer and wine
Let’s totally stereotype here and talk about beer in front of the TV while the Flames lose, or beer and a hot dog at the ballpark as the Jays lose.

For some, beer is as Canadian as the Maple Leaf, and anything less would be downright unpatriotic. But, new statistics show, a nation of beer drinkers are increasingly switching from hops to grapes.

“Despite the small increase in beer sales, both in terms of volume and dollar value, the market share dominance of beer continued to decline as consumers turned more to wine,” Statistics Canada said today, referring to numbers that are now a year out of date, but still show how tastes continue to change.

“In 2002, beer had a market share of 50 per cent by dollar value, while wine had 24 per cent,” the agency said in an annual report on alcoholic beverages.

“By 2012, the market share for beer had declined to 44 per cent, while wine accounted for 31 per cent.”

As the business goes, net income among the provincial and territorial liquor authorities rose 3.6 per cent to $6.1-billion.

The report, for the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2012, showed beer and liquor sales climbing 3 per cent from a year earlier, to almost $21-billion.

Beer remained “the alcoholic drink of choice,” Statistics Canada said, but the 5.9-per-cent increase in the dollar value of sales for wine outpaced the 0.6 per cent for beer and 3.9 per cent for spirits.

By volume, sales climbed 3.5 per cent to 236.2 million litres.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Beer sales tallied more than $9-billion, with Alberta notching up the biggest increase, 7.1 per cent, and Quebec the fastest decline, 3.9 per cent.
  • Wine represented $6.5-billion, on the rise everywhere but for Nunavut. And, FYI, red wine is on the upswing, now accounting for 57 per cent of wines sold, compared to 48 per cent in 2002.
  • Spirits were worth $5.3-billion, largely on the growing popularity of whisky, up 4.7 per cent, and liqueurs, up 2 per cent.

The numbers are different across the country, of course. According to Statistics Canada, sales on a per-capita basis for those 15 and over – 15 and over? – were highest in the Yukon, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador.

In those two regions, beer is by far the drink of choice, far outstripping wine.

RBC apologizes
Royal Bank of Canada today issued an open letter apologizing to employees in the wake of the controversy surrounding outsourcing of work to a firm under scrutiny for use of temporary foreign workers.

Chief executive officer Gordon Nixon said the bank is in total compliance with regulations, but should have handled the situation better, The Globe and Mail’s Grant Robertson reports.

“The question for many people is not about doing only what the rules require – it’s about doing what employees, clients, shareholders and Canadians expect of RBC,” the letter says.

“And that’s something we take very much to heart.”

The bank added it is offering comparable jobs to all 45 employees affected.

It also plans to soon unveil an initiative to help young people get work experience at RBC.

Analysts cut Barrick outlook
Analysts are cutting their outlook for Barrick Gold Corp. shares after the mining giant suspended work on its huge gold and silver project in Chile.

As The Globe and Mail’s Pav Jordan reports, Barrick announced late yesterday it was putting construction of the Pascua-Lama project on hold in the wake of a court order related to allegations of pollution of groundwater and rivers in a desert area where water is at a premium.

No allegations have been proven, but the appeals court decision will set back an $8-billion mine that’s already over budget and behind the original schedule.

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