Maybe, but probably not.

First bad weather, then no smoking, now wine in food channels? That’s the word from Gotham as state assemblymen pore over proposals which would allow wine sales in supermarkets so that wine sales will increase so the state can gain more tax revenue to help pay for their $12 billion budget shortfall. Thirty-six states allow wine sales in grocery stores. They are also considering Sunday liquor sales.

BEER SLAM. Yes, if wine were sold in grocery stores it might mean a hit for beer sales, at least initially. Considering that consumers have limited disposable income, wine sales will eat away at “share of buzz” of grocery shoppers. Beer Business Daily spoke with a few beer marketers in that state and some believe if grocery wine sales stave off a tax increase for beer, they will take it. One distributor wrote to BBD saying that it was a very bad development, since an excise tax increase “can be passed on with a little bit of padding added.”

AN IMPORTANT POINT. His point is well-taken during a time when at least half of all states are considering a beet tax increase: piggy-back pricing can actually mean higher margins for distributors and retailers. However, the resultant drop in sales, trade down to budget beers, and loss of key price points often more than offsets the piggy-back pricing effect.

HOWEVER, Beer Business Daily has learned from those in the know that this proposal has little chance of gaining any momentum. It appears that beer will maintain its domain over supermarket alcohol sales in the near term.

NEW BILL COULD SLOW BEER IMPORTS. Beer importers are closely watching a bill making its way through Congress that would require that EVERY container from foreign ports be physically inspected. The disruption and delay this would cause at crowded ports that push through 6 mil containers a year could cause massive shortages of European imported beer. Currently only 2-3% of incoming cargo is inspected. A similar bill was introduced last year that was defeated. This bill will most likely be killed in committee, we’re told by sources.

FOSTER’S BEER SAVES WINE DIVISION. Remember when Foster’s was a beer company that sold a little wine? Now they’re a wine company that sells a little beer, but I bet they wish they were still the former. Foster’s Group said Monday that its beer business will let it continue to post earnings growth rates at the top end of its 5%-to-7% target range within five years.

How? The company said it will deliver a minimum of A$50 million in net efficiency savings within three years, said Trevor O’Hoy, managing director of Carlton & United Breweries.

CLOSING BREWERY. O’Hoy told reporters the decision to close the company’s brewery in Sydney over the next two years will result in the loss of around 300 production jobs at the site. To offset the closure of the Sydney plant, Foster’s will upgrade its Perth brewery, increasing capacity by 25% to 500,000 hctlrs.

The company also intends to boost capacity at its Brisbane brewery to 4.5 million hctlrs from 2.5 million hectare liters by 2004.MTD Sell Day: 11 Sell Days This Month: 22 Sell Days This Month Last Year: 22 YTD Over/Under Sell Days: 0 This Month Ends on a: Wed. Last Year This Month Ended on a: Tue.