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Customers baffled that P.E.I. does not allow low-alcohol beer in grocery stores

In the age of legal marijuana, fans of low-alcohol beer are baffled by P.E.I. legislation that prevents it from being sold in local grocery stores. 

“I think it’s kind of silly,” said Hannah Brown, who is originally from P.E.I. but now lives in Halifax, where low-alcohol beer is easily bought in grocery stores. 

P.E.I and Nunavut don’t allow it in retail stores. 

Brown said she and her husband enjoy non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beer almost daily. 

P.E.I. native Hannah Brown, who lives in Halifax, thinks it’s silly that the low-alcohol beer can’t be sold on the Island. (Hannah Brown)

“This is really good. It tastes just like beer, it’s got 50 calories, it’s got 0.5 per cent alcohol,” she said. 

She said she was disappointed when she came home to P.E.I. for a visit and realized the brands with small amounts of alcohol weren’t available. 

The Liquor Control Act prevents beer with any alcohol from being sold in grocery stores. It’s a rule that was put in place in 1992. Officials with the Liquor Control Commission said parents were concerned at the time about children buying low-percentage beer products. 

“Anything above point zero must be sold through the P.E.I. Liquor Control Commission,”  said Jamie MacLeod, director of corporate services for the commission.

More variety needed

P.E.I. resident Jessica Fritz, who is originally from Germany, said non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beer is popular in her homeland, and she’s disappointed in the lack of choice here.

Jessica Fritz says it would be nice to have more choices when it comes to low-alcohol beer. (Laura Meader/CBC )

“I don’t really understand why,” she said.

She doesn’t find the zero per cent beer that are currently sold in P.E.I. grocery stores to be very flavourful and wishes there were more choices.

Shelves in a Halifax grocery store show a number of low-alcohol beer brands available. (Hannah Brown)

“It just doesn’t seem to be common sense,” she said. “It’s all a matter of education.”

She said food labelling would be enough to help consumers make the right choices.

More requests for changes

MacLeod said in recent years they’ve had increasing requests to revisit the rule. 

Although some low-alcohol brands are available in liquor stores, Brown said they are pricier and can have more calories than the store-brand 12-packs commonly sold in neighbouring provinces. 

Hannah Brown said this brand of beer is affordable and much lower in calories, at 50 calories per can. (Hannah Brown)

“It’s about $8 for a 12-pack,” said Brown. “I think it should be available,” she said. 

‘Increasing pressure’ 

MacLeod said the commission is looking at possible amendments to the Liquor Control Act, and the government may look at the issue during the spring sitting of the legislature.

The Compliments Blonde Lager Brand label states it has 35 calories and less than .5 per cent alcohol. It is not allowed in P.E.I. stores. (Laura Meader/CBC)

​Last year, the provincial finance minister said the province had already begun the process of overhauling the “outdated” Liquor Control Act after the Charlottetown restaurant My Plum, My Duck received a warning for serving kombucha, a slightly alcoholic, fermented tea. 

Loblaws and Sobeys hoping to work with government

Both major grocery store chains told CBC News they have been speaking to government about the regulations. 

Examples of low-alcohol beer sold in other provinces. Loblaws and Sobeys have their own brands that are currently not allowed in stores here. (Laura Meader/CBC )

“We are always looking for opportunities to bring in new products to our customers, ” said Sobeys spokesperson Jacquelin Corrado-Weatherbee. 

“We would welcome the opportunity to do so in P.E.I.,” she said.

“We are currently working with liquor boards in all the Atlantic provinces on encouraging them to modernize their rules in regulations,” said Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs for Loblaw Atlantic. 

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