Utah is just one of two states that still require beer sold in grocery and convenience stores come in at or under 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, or about 4 percent alcohol by volume (Minnesota is the other). With recent legislative changes in Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma to allow full-strength beer sales, Utah beer shoppers find themselves part of a smaller and smaller consumer base for the products often derided as “near-beers.” Now, those who’d like to do away with that law have a new, large ally: Walmart.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports shoppers in Utah Walmarts may now see signs on beer shelves urging them to join the campaign to raise the beer-strength cap. The signs urge shoppers to text a number to become involved in Walmart’s “Customer Action Network,” according to FOX 13, which is a group that pushes legislators to change Utah’s legal definition of beer.
“Walmart is currently asking our customers who already buy 3.2 beer if they would like the option to purchase full-strength beer in grocery and convenience stores, without having to travel to a state-operated liquor store. With recent changes to Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas laws, Utah remains one of the only states where consumers don’t have this option,” Walmart spokeswoman Tiffany Wilson told FOX 13 in a statement.
But Walmart isn’t doing this solely out of the kindness of its giant corporate heart; as a mega-retailer, the company would obviously like to see more beer options that translate to more beer sales and a less complicated supply chain. As it stands now, few breweries have interest in creating special, sub-3.2 percent versions of their beers for a state that, comparatively, doesn’t consume much beer. (FOX 13 says Utahans make up just a half-percent of all American beer drinkers.)
This means Walmart stores there aren’t able to offer as many products. Stores have reportedly already discontinued popular beer packages like Corona Light six-packs and Bud Light six-pack cans because brewers aren’t producing as much of those sub-3.2 percent beers in the wake of other states’ increased beer-alcohol caps.
Despite public pressure—which now has Walmart in its corner—Utah legislators haven’t budged so far. In a state known for its draconian alcohol laws, change—if it comes—will surely come quite slowly.