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Central City’s consumer-friendly pricing move: a peek into the near future of BC beer?

Buried in the blizzard of beer news and events this Vancouver Craft Beer Week is an announcement by Central City Brewing that may prove to be noteworthy in hindsight. They held a media gathering Tuesday May 29th to officially reveal their latest marketing initiative: a move to a new packaging and pricing model. Due to some efficiencies they realized during their recent transition to a larger canning format, they will now start selling 500ml for the same price they currently sell 355ml:
Red Racer Upsizes Competition with Bold New Packaging

Photo: Facebook [Dustan Sept]
News that CCB is releasing beer in new cans might seem underwhelming. But what is really at play here are two things:

  1. Price War. OK, that phrasing is a bit dramatic, so pick your own label for it, but either way CCB is emphasizing price in this move, and their news release could be interpreted as a shot across the bow to their major competitors (and many of the minor ones too). They recognize that there are “value craft” consumers that don’t want to buy Wildcat, but they do want to be careful with their money.What’s Brewing has recently seen 500ml 6-packs of their Beer League lager on sale for as low as $9.99 at CCB’s private liquor store. That is 3 litres of beer for under $10. Try that in a growler. Their many SKUs generally won’t sell that low, but they’ll probably come in well under the competition at this point. For some shoppers, value like that will be hard to ignore.

    // Update: as of June 2018, 12-packs of 500ml cans have been selling at BCL for $19.99, confirming that the same rate per dollar as noted above will continue to be available to consumers.

  2. Form Factor. It’s become clearer lately that “tallboy” cans are the next wave in beer packaging, and by “next” we mean “already started”. Established breweries that have invested significantly in glass packaging over the years may soon be looking at a market that is shifting away from bombers and into cheaper, more portable cans. 500ml seems to be a “sweet spot” that can be single-serve or shared, and might be a good size for hospitality too.

Anyway, Central City is simply making an announcement about a smart marketing decision; this is all just neutral observation, and we certainly wish them all the best with their move. All the same, here’s hoping that the BC craft market stays rich and diverse and doesn’t become completely stratified into “high end” (which of course Central City also produces) and “value”. Either way, the beneficiary in at least the short term is the price-conscious craft consumer.

Central City’s Red Racer Upsizes Competition with Bold New Packaging of Colossal Proportions

Dave Smith

Editor of What's Brewing Magazine and Beer Me BC. Past contributor to Northwest Brewing News, The Publican/Quarterly Pour and BC Ale Trail. Became a craft beer evangelist in 1999, a CAMRA BC member in 2005, and an accredited member of the BC Association of Travel Writers in the 2010s. Along with wife Ivana, Dave travels Cascadia as half of the beer duo BeerSeekers.

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