Canadian brewery Labatt has decided to scrap one of its most attractive retirement perks – free beer for life.
The Ontario-based brewery will begin turning off the beer tap for ex-employees over the next two years according to reports.
The New York Times has reported that the new directive was issued by Labatt’s owner Anheuser-Busch InBev apparently in an effort to cut costs, with a statement from the brewery saying the cost of healthcare in particular for retirees was becoming increasingly high.
A spokesman for Labatt, Charlie Angelakos, said in an email that the brewery had made the “reluctant decision” to stop free beer for retirees as no other Canadian breweries or consumer goods companies offered a perk like it. Molson Coors stopped giving employees free beer some years ago.
The practice was apparently introduced at Labatt during the 1970s when it was still family-owned. The brewery was acquired by Interbrew in 1995, which in turn merged with Anheuser-Busch in 2008.
The newspaper noted that the controlling shareholder in AB InBev is Brazilian equity firm 3G, which has conducted “extensive” cost cutting at all of its holdings over the years.
Until now retirees received about eight 24-bottle cases of beer a year after they left. Active employees will continue to receive a free ration of beer, which amounts to a 24-bottle case every other week and bonus cases for Christmas and Canada Day.
David Bridger, president of the Service Employees International Union, told the NY Times the way the brewery was run now was “certainly not the way it was in the past, when there was fanatical devotion to the brand and company. Today it’s just a job.”
The company’s chief brand is Labatt Blue, which used to be the most popular beer in Canada until it was overtaken by Molson Canadian in the 1980s and then Budweiser in the 1990s. Today the brewery also brews Budweiser under licence.
In 1989, the young Pamela Anderson was caught on camera at a BC Lions Canadian football game wearing a crop top emblazoned with the slogan of Labatt’s Blue Zone beer. Hired for a time as a ‘spokesmodel’ for the company, Anderson went on to land a Playboy cover and then secured her most famous role in Baywatch.
In 2013 however, Beer Marketer’s Insights published a report where Labatt Blue was listed as one of the nine beers Americans (though not Canadians) no longer drink.