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Breweries Face Tough Decisions on UPCs

Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, says it will require unique UPCs for each seasonal and variety pack—and other stores may follow suit. From the potential for packaging headaches to changing sales data, here’s what breweries need to know.

Kate Bernot Jul 31, 2023 - 9 min read

Breweries Face Tough Decisions on UPCs Primary Image

Because most breweries use a single UPC across their seasonal beers, a customer who places an order for a 12-pack of a summer beer via Walmart’s website could conceivably end up receiving a 12-pack of an Oktoberfest delivered to their door. That’s not ideal.

In response to the growth of e-commerce as a segment of Walmart’s business, the country’s largest retailer recently announced that beginning in March 2024, breweries will need to begin using unique UPCs for all beer brands, including seasonals and variety packs. It’s a policy the retailer has instituted in other product segments, with alcohol being the final holdout. Unique UPCs run counter to most other retailers’ and wholesalers’ practices, leaving breweries to do the cost-benefit analysis and ultimately decide whether to comply. Some are choosing to walk away from seasonal beer sales at the nation’s largest retailer.

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