Availability of Growlers Grows in Convenience Channel
DES MOINES, Iowa — Beer on tap is becoming more popular at convenience stores, grocery stores and other retailers these days. An increasing number of c-stores are installing draft beer taps to let customers fill 64-ounce growlers to go, according to a USA Today report.
Retailers can sell these refillable, half-gallon jugs in approximately 35 states, and several more states are considering legislation that would allow the practice.
"It's definitely becoming more popular," Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, told the news outlet. "The American public wants to be able to control their experience. They want to be able to take their beer home and pour as much or little as they want."
The popularity of growlers is growing alongside that of craft beer, with craft beer sales rising 22 percent to $19.6 billion in 2014. This steep increase was partially due to a loosening of the definition of craft breweries, but c-stores are still jumping on the trend.
Sunoco opened its first Craft Beer Exchange growler program in 2011, as CSNews Online previously reported, and has since expanded it to 65 stores in New York and South Carolina. Each store offers six to 12 beers on tap at a price point of $8 to $20 per half-gallon. Customers can purchase a new growler for $4 of bring in empty ones.
Other c-store options include The Growler Guys franchise, and equipment manufactured by The Growler Station.
However, not all brewers and industry associations support this trend. Some brewers have expressed concern about poor maintenance and hygiene practices at c-stores that could cast the brewery in a poor light, while certain beverage distributors prefer to stick with existing laws on beer sales.
"You're not selling something like popsicles," stated Iowa Wholesalers Association lobbyist Mike Heller. "You're selling something that has a lot of taxation and a lot of controls on how it can be sold and distributed and we think those controls are good public policy dating back to Prohibition."