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When it comes to regulating beer in America, numbers tell the story.
Two-hundred and forty-six billion, 576,000, 13,000, one. These numbers reflect the economic, commercial and regulatory success of the state and federal policies that govern beer and those who produce, distribute and sell it.
The number 246 billion represents the combined annual economic impact of brewers, distributors, retailers and related industries. Beer distributors alone add $54 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product. According to the Beer Serves America study, the beer industry directly and indirectly employs more than 2 million Americans in all 50 states. These good jobs also deliver nearly $79 billion in wages and benefits.
The number 576,000 represents the licensed beer retailers across the country that provide consumers with the wide choice of brews delivered by local, Main Street beer distributors. Distributors provide brewers of all sizes across the nation with efficient access to these retailers, thanks to a balanced structure of local, state and federal regulations. Measures like franchise laws address the relationship between beer suppliers and distributors, and provide structure and guidance to support consumer choice, brewer access and public safeguards in each community. They also allow distributors to invest in established and emerging brands through store level merchandising, product promotion, marketing initiatives and local event sponsorships — things many small brewers would not be able to manage at each retailer in their startup phase.
The number 13,000 represents the incredible amount of individual beer labels available to legal drinking age consumers. Whether you are perusing the menu at your favorite neighborhood bar or taking a stroll down a local retailer’s aisle, there are new choices and more labels of beer to try than ever before. Just think about the number of beer options compared with the soft drink choices in your local grocery store. The Nielsen Company reports more choice in alcohol than any other consumer product. Thanks to America’s time-tested system of independent beer production, distribution and sales, there is even more variety of labels on the horizon. The number of breweries is skyrocketing. From four dozen in the 1980s to more than 2,400 today, this success isn’t happenstance. It is a product of beer’s unique and successful regulatory system that allows new breweries to thrive.
Finally, the number one represents the fact that America’s system of state-based alcohol regulation is the gold standard the world over. Established by the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, America’s community-based approach strikes the right balance between regulating a socially-sensitive product while encouraging economic development to foster competition with a product millions of adult consumers love.
From economic impact and quality jobs, to overall choice and the growth of breweries, the numbers are all headed in the right direction. Behind these numbers is a balanced regulatory approach to alcohol that serves America well.
Craig Purser is the president and CEO of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents the interests of America’s 3,300 licensed, independent beer distribution facilities.