A-B May Cut Weak Beer Options in Utah Supermarkets


In a Dec. 1 letter to Utah beer wholesalers, Anheuser-Busch warned that, with the state set to become one of just two that cap the strength of beer wholesalers and retailers can sell at 3.2 percent, it would cut back on the production of weaker beer next year, according to a published report.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that St. Louis-based A-B wrote in the letter that it was “considering package reductions of up to 40 percent of those currently offered to Utah’s consumers.”

“This would mean a decline from 113 packages to less than 70,” Anson Frericks, VP of sales for A-B’s northwest region noted in the Tribune article, “and going from a range of 20 brands to 12.”

Jim Olsen, president of the Highland-based Utah Beer Wholesalers Association, told the newspaper that if the phase-out occurs, it would begin ahead of October 2018, when Oklahoma’s law allowing stronger beer in grocery stores goes into effect. Colorado and Kansas have also made similar changes to their alcohol laws.

“They don’t want to be stuck with a lot of 3.2 product in the stores once the change happens,” Olsen explained, adding that he expected similar letter from MillerCoors in the wake of the legislative changes.

In response to the possible cuts, Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said that it wouldn’t be able to meet demand for 3.2 percent beer.

When the new laws go into effect in Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, Utah and Minnesota will be the only two states to allow only beer with 3.2 percent alcohol-by-weight to be sold in grocery and convenience stores. Most beer sold in Minnesota is high-alcohol beer carried by private liquor stores, however, while more than 90 percent of beer sales in Utah are of weak beers, according to the Tribune.

Just 0.5 percent of total U.S. beer sales are of 3.2 percent beers, A-B’s letter pointed out.

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