18 April 2016

Want to sell your wine in Canada’s $6 Billion+ wine market?

By Jackie McAskill | jackie@bevproconsulting.com

Tapping into the over $6 Billion and growing Canadian market is a great opportunity for many wine suppliers.  Let me help – as a former Wine Buyer / Category Manager for Canada’s largest beverage alcohol retailer (LCBO) and one of the largest importers of wine in the world, I have some insights that can help you succeed in the Canadian Marketplace.

1. Understanding the market -  I know this sounds like a no brainer for selling to any market, but it is absolutely vital when it comes to Canada.  Why you ask?  Because it is complicated – and understanding it will impact everything from your initial investment to your ultimate success in the market.  Each of Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 territories distributes, sells, regulates and markets wine very differently.
  • Six provinces are 100% government controlled (MB, PE, YT, NL, NT, NU).
  • Four provinces are undergoing transformation from government controlled to a mixed market (BC, ON, NB, SK).
  • Two provinces are predominantly controlled by government with some form of privatization (NS, QC) or wine in grocery.
  • One province with 100% privatization (AB). 

2. Target your distribution channel. To say that Canada is complex and dynamic is an understatement.  The good news is – You don’t have to sell your product in all of these markets, you get to choose.  Quebec (SAQ) and Ontario (LCBO) are by far the largest, representing almost 60% of the total wine sales in Canada combined. Choosing the best markets to break into is key to your long term success. Although Canada is considered a very profitable market for many brands, the ROI in certain provinces is sometimes not worth the cost of entry for particular products.   A focussed strategy based on a strong understanding of the market will ensure you are positioned to achieve strong ROI’s and have the critical mass and influence to reach your ultimate goal.

3. Invest. Depending on your best route to market, your investment will vary as will your volume potential.  For an ongoing listing (sometimes referred to as a general list), many suppliers are reluctant to invest upfront due to uncertainty in a new market.  You need to remember that you only get one shot at a first impression to the market so make it count. Costs to consider are tastings, in-store marketing programs and external advertising and your sales agent’s commission.  These are often negotiated with your agent as a % of your FOB price quote. Other types of listings such as one- time purchases, seasonal buys, consignment products and private orders often require a significantly smaller investment, however offer less mass exposure.  The other investment to prepare for is patience.  Although many channels bring your product to the market within a few months, some listings can take over a year from the time you formally submit your product to the time it is available to sell.

4. Select the best agent for your brand. Once you have decided what your market goals are, where you want to launch your brands and what your targeted investment is, you are ready to look for a Sales representative agent (known as “agents” throughout Canada).  It is absolutely critical for your success to hire an agent that will make your products a priority and be engaged with your ongoing success in the market. Some Agents offer national representation, while others focus on individual provinces.   It is also paramount that your brands align with their business model and strengths.

5. Call me at Bevpro Canada Inc. at 1 (416) 214-7743. Navigating these waters can be daunting and we are here to help.   We are a team of former Canadian beverage alcohol Buyers, Category Managers and marketers whose focus is helping you understand and achieve success in the Canadian market.  We provide you with a customized strategy to maximize your success and help you meet your objectives within Canada. Our experience working with over 500 agents across Canada provides us with insights that help us to refer you to the strongest agent for your unique brand and goals.

Hope this is helpful.  I know we can be.

Our Experience is your Advantage.

*All numerical information sourced from Statistics Canada.

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