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Labatt Brewing Company Ltd.
Labatt Logo
Location London, Ontario
Owner(s) AB-InBev (Outside US), North American Breweries (US)
Year opened 1847
Active beers
Name Type
Blue Pilsner
Kokanee Lager
Lucky Lager
50 Ale
Labatt Blue Light Light lager
Alexander Keith's Various
Bud Light Light lager
Bud Lager

Labatt Brewing Company Ltd. is a Canadian beer company founded by John Kinder Labatt in 1847 in London, Ontario. In 1995, it was purchased by Brazilian-Belgian brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev. Labatt is the largest brewer in Canada.

Contents

History

Labatt founded the company with the purchase of London's Simcoe Street brewery in partnership with Samuel Eccles. By 1853, Labatt had become the brewery's sole proprietor, and he later renamed it John Labatt's Brewery. With the completion of the Great Western Railway in the 1850s, Labatt's operations expanded to export beer to the rest of the country. By the early 20th century Labatt was a corporation, its shares distributed among John Labatt's seven daughters and two sons.

In 1915, Prohibition began in Canada when public bars were banned in Saskatchewan. A year later prohibition was instituted in Ontario as well, affecting all 64 breweries in the province. Although some provinces totally banned alcohol manufacture, some permitted production for export to the United States. Labatt survived by producing full strength beer for export south of the border and by introducing two "temperance ales" with less than two per cent alcohol for sale in Ontario. However, the Canadian beer industry suffered a second blow when Prohibition began in the U.S. in 1919. When Prohibition was repealed in Ontario in 1926, just 15 breweries remained and only Labatt retained its original management. This resulted in a strengthened industry position. In 1945 Labatt became a publicly traded company with the issuance of 900,000 shares.

John and Hugh Labatt, grandsons of founder John K. Labatt, launched Labatt 50 in 1950 to commemorate 50 years of partnership. The first light ale introduced in Canada, Labatt 50 was Canada’s best-selling beer until 1979.

In 1951, Labatt launched its Pilsener Lager; when it was introduced in Manitoba, the beer was nicknamed "Blue" for the colour of its label and the company's support of Winnipeg's Canadian Football League (CFL) franchise, the Blue Bombers. The nickname stuck and in 1979 Labatt Blue claimed top spot in the Canadian beer market. It lost this status in the late eighties to Molson Canadian, but over the next decade, periodically regained top spot as consumer preferences fluctuated. In 2004, Budweiser took the top spot, pushing Blue to third for the first time in twenty-five years.[1][2] However, Labatt Blue remains the best selling Canadian beer in the world based upon worldwide sales.

Labatt was also the majority owner of the Toronto Blue Jays from their inception in 1976 until 1995, when Interbrew purchased Labatt.

Labatt's innovations include the introduction of the first twist-off cap on a refillable bottle in 1984. In 1989, Labatt's had the opportunity to hire Canadian model Pamela Anderson as a Labatt's Blue Zone Girl after she was picked out of the crowd by a TV camera man at a BC Lions football game wearing a Blue Zone crop-top. Photographer and boyfriend, Dann Ilicic, produced the Blue Zone Girl poster on his own after Labatt's refused to have anything to do with it. Later, Labatt's did buy 1000 posters to deal with consumer demand.

In 1995, Labatt was acquired by the large Belgian multinational brewer InBev (then Interbrew), the world market leader.

Labatt is part-owner of Brewers Retail Inc., operator of The Beer Store retail chain, which—protected by legislation—has over 90% market share of Ontario off-premise beer sales.

In early 2007, Labatt also acquired Lakeport Brewing Company of Hamilton, Ontario.

Operations

Canada

United States

The Labatt USA headquarters were originally located in Buffalo, New York before locating to Norwalk, Connecticut. In 2007 Labatt relocated their US headquarters back to Buffalo. Some of the grounds for the move back to Buffalo were based on strong Labatt sales in the city and closer proximity to Toronto and London, Ontario.

Labatt's Toronto brewery ceased operations in 2006 and demolished by 2007, thus ending the brewery's ties to the city.

Corporate activities

Labatt has sponsored the construction of many buildings in London, including Labatt Park, the John Labatt Centre, and the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre at the University of Western Ontario (UWO). Bessie Labatt's son Arthur Labatt was the 19th chancellor of UWO (2004-2008)[3]. In 1998 Labatt announced a 20 year sponsorship agreement with the now defunct Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), which included naming rights for a downtown Montreal ballpark which was never built. From 1992-1997 they sponsored the English football team Nottingham Forest F.C.. They also are the official beer and corporate sponsor of the OHL hockey franchise Plymouth Whalers. In the 1950s, the company sponsored a PGA Tour golf tournament, the Labatt Open. Labatt was a sponsor of the Williams F1 racing team in the early 1990s.

Labatt is a beer partner of the Buffalo Bills.

In May 2009, Labatt gave their support to a seventh NHL team in Canada, currently being pursued by Jim Balsillie.

Marketing

Labatt Blue is sold in all provinces of Canada (most of the United States sells Labatt with sales particularly strong in the Midwest and Northeast along the Canadian border), although in Quebec it is sold under the name Labatt Bleue, with a slightly different logo. Aside from the name, the red maple leaf on the logo has also been changed to a red fleur-de-lis type of image.

See also

References

External links

Multimedia

  • CBC Archives CBC Radio reports on Interbrew's takeover of Labatt (From 1995).







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