Mainstream Retailers Embrace Growlers As Trend GrowsMay 14, 2013
Driven by the surge in craft beer sales, growler stations are becoming a national retail trend in liquor stores, supermarkets, c-stores, drug stores and other channels. Offering draft-only craft beers for take-out has boosted product selection and customer engagement for these off-premise retailers.
Total Wine & More, which now has 90 units in 15 states, plans to have growler stations installed in about 20 of its stores by year-end. The stations, part of the retailer’s “Brewery District” store-within-a-store program, feature between 12 to 24 different draft brews. Empty growlers are available in both 1-liter and 1-gallon containers, and fill prices vary by brand.
Total Wine’s Spokane, Washington, store recently offered growler fills of Mac & Jack’s African Amber for $4.49 and $6.99, and Avery Brewing’s Ale to the Chief for $9.99 and $17.99. “This program is very popular with our customers, even drawing in some who don’t normally buy beer,” says Total Wine’s new programs manager Rob Hill. “It allows us to offer many draft-only craft beers that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to feature.”
The 135-unit BevMo chain now has growler stations in its Washington stores and in some Arizona outlets. “They’re very attractive to beer lovers because what we offer on tap isn’t always bottled by brewers,” says Brian Bowden, vice president of spirits, beer, tobacco and beverages at BevMo.
BevMo kicked off its growler program a year ago with the opening of its first store in Washington, and now all eight of the chain’s stores there offer 64-ounce growlers. In Arizona, growlers debuted last fall at four of BevMo’s 10 stores in the state, with more to follow. Growlers are currently prohibited in Bevmo’s home market of California, but there is movement afoot to change the law.
Empty growlers at BevMo are priced at $6.99, while beer prices range from $8.99 to $12, depending on the beer. Typically, 8-10 different brews are available on tap, and selection is constantly changing.
Supermarket operators are also now starting to offer growlers. Ray’s Food Place, a division of C&K Market Inc. with 50 stores in California and Oregon, began selling growlers at its Bend, Oregon, location in February. And the 110-unit, six-state Price Chopper supermarket chain began testing beer growlers this past fall at its Slingerlands, New York location. No decision has been made on further expansion.
Smaller-format stores, including convenience and drug stores, are also getting into the game. Sunoco’s APlus c-stores feature “Craft Beer Exchange” growler stations with up to 12 different beers at 45 locations in New York and 13 sites in South Carolina. And Walgreens-owned Duane Reade offers growlers at select New York City locations. The Elizabeth Station c-store brand in Washington state features five beers on draft, with growlers available in two sizes—32 ounces ($10 filled) and 64 ounces ($15 filled). The growler program has been so successful that Elizabeth Station plans to expand its draft offerings to 16 this summer.