The economics of alcohol are perplexing. One need only look so far as how beer and wine are sold in this province to see a picnic basket of complexities, with brewers, vintners, retailers and the province all avidly negotiating for the means of distribution, revenue and profit.
Martin Cohn, a reporter from the Toronto Star, has done a lot of digging on this topic and has published a series of articles providing real insight into the issues and sub-issues governing how alcohol and money are going to flow in the coming days.
A good example is his April article on how the province is working to make changes in The Beer Store, to allow for competition from sales in grocery stores, and to mandate revisions in their business practices, such that small brewers get more market share. With craft beer and cider sales growing rapidly, this is no coincidence – instead this is a response to market forces.
Cohn also exposed several nuances of the wine industry in Ontario and the various distribution elements, such as retail licensing – a practice of which most folks aren’t aware – such that selling wine in this province is a mine field of bureaucracy and jockeying for position.
The common thread binding these themes is that the major players are working hard to keep their incomes hopping, and eagerly awaiting a harvest of revenue. Everyone thinks of booze as business, and virtually no one is treating alcohol for what it is: a legal drug with a litany of associated major health consequences to individuals and society.
Instead, much of our alcohol awareness is focused on common scapegoats – youth drinking and impaired driving. Yet, those problems are only symptoms of a larger and more costly ailment. Moreover, we ignore or dismiss such notions with well spun ideals of ‘social responsibility’ that often avail the alcohol industry.
After all, the verb in the pervasive slogan Please Drink Responsibly is drink. Please.