Market Watch- Curious Canadians

by | Sep 4, 2017 | Business and Marketing

Canadian wine consumers enjoy experimenting, especially with various wine styles. With white wines gaining ever more momentum, it’s time for South African producers to get to grips with this market. 

Canadians are among the world’s biggest wine consumers by volume, with 80% of adults consuming alcohol. South African wine exports to Canada have shown a steady increase year-on-year 2016/17 from 21 643 714 litres to 27 865 690 litres (+29%). With a diverse population of steady income earners and a low unemployment rate it’ll be wise for SA producers to listen up. If you appoint an experienced importer, business is sure to follow.

We asked Wosa market manager for North America, Laurel Keenan, to shed some light on the Canadian market.

How well are South African wines received in Canada?

South African wines are popular in Canada – about one million nine-litre cases are sold a year. There has been good solid growth year on year and we continue to head in the right direction. That said, Canadians drink about 33 million cases of imported wine a year so South Africa, with about 5.4% market share, clearly has room to grow.

How easy is South African wine to find in Canada?

Although the selection is sometimes limited, South African wine is available in all liquor boards, as well as in many private retail shops. We are starting to see some traction on restaurant lists as well, but this still has much more potential for growth.

Are Canadian wine drinkers adventurous or do they stick to a brand they know?

With all of the innovations happening in the alcoholic beverage sector over the past few years Canadians, like many other nationalities, are keen to explore new ready-to-drink beverages, craft beers and new wine brands. They may have preferred brands, but I think if a wine drinker in Canada likes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc they’ll be open to trying other Sauvignon Blancs. It’s safe to say they’re loyal to a preferred style or varietal rather than a specific brand.

What SA wines do Canadians typically prefer?

If we analyse sales and growth in the South African category white wine is winning, particularly in Quebec, a province known for its love of red wine. Many people in Canada are also becoming acquainted with Chenin Blanc and Chenin blends,
a niche South Africa fills well.

How can we grow wine sales in Canada?

Our focus over the past few years has been on educating the gatekeepers – trade, buyers, the media and more recently importers and their sales teams. This is crucial. Having this group not only better understanding South Africa but fully embracing the category helps us to spread the word among consumers – along with as much liquid-to-lips wine tasting as budget allows.

How do producers go about exporting to Canada through the monopolies?

There are two requirements that are of paramount importance for any producer. One is to appoint a strong importer in the market and, depending on your volume, one importer nationally or several at provincial level. This person is your eyes and ears on the ground and is crucial to your business. The second requirement is to regularly visit the market. If you’re serious about doing business with any of the liquor boards and growing the business they expect to see you regularly – at least once a year. It also helps you get a better understanding of the market. Canada’s provinces all vary – a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.

How complicated is the Canadian import system?

It’s not that complicated at all. Depending on the province, there’s a mix of liquor boards, private shops and now also grocery stores selling alcoholic beverages. Each has its own system for putting out calls for new products to taste and hopefully buy. If you partner with a strong importer who wants to help you grow your business they become an important conduit for what’s happening in the market and giving you a heads up about new opportunities and any challenges that may arise.

Canadian wine consumers enjoy experimenting, especially with various wine styles. With white wines gaining ever more momentum, it’s time for South African producers to get to grips with this market.

Canadians are among the world’s biggest wine consumers by volume, with 80% of adults consuming alcohol. South African wine exports to Canada have shown a steady increase year-on-year 2016/17 from 21 643 714 litres to 27 865 690 litres (+29%). With a diverse population of steady income earners and a low unemployment rate it’ll be wise for SA producers to listen up. If you appoint an experienced importer, business is sure to follow.

We asked Wosa market manager for North America, Laurel Keenan, to shed some light on the Canadian market.

How well are South African wines received in Canada?

South African wines are popular in Canada – about one million nine-litre cases are sold a year. There has been good solid growth year on year and we continue to head in the right direction. That said, Canadians drink about 33 million cases of imported wine a year so South Africa, with about 5.4% market share, clearly has room to grow.

How easy is South African wine to find in Canada?

Although the selection is sometimes limited, South African wine is available in all liquor boards, as well as in many private retail shops. We are starting to see some traction on restaurant lists as well, but this still has much more potential for growth.

Are Canadian wine drinkers adventurous or do they stick to a brand they know?

With all of the innovations happening in the alcoholic beverage sector over the past few years Canadians, like many other nationalities, are keen to explore new ready-to-drink beverages, craft beers and new wine brands. They may have preferred brands, but I think if a wine drinker in Canada likes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc they’ll be open to trying other Sauvignon Blancs. It’s safe to say they’re loyal to a preferred style or varietal rather than a specific brand.

What SA wines do Canadians typically prefer?

If we analyse sales and growth in the South African category white wine is winning, particularly in Quebec, a province known for its love of red wine. Many people in Canada are also becoming acquainted with Chenin Blanc and Chenin blends,
a niche South Africa fills well.

How can we grow wine sales in Canada?

Our focus over the past few years has been on educating the gatekeepers – trade, buyers, the media and more recently importers and their sales teams. This is crucial. Having this group not only better understanding South Africa but fully embracing the category helps us to spread the word among consumers – along with as much liquid-to-lips wine tasting as budget allows.

How do producers go about exporting to Canada through the monopolies?

There are two requirements that are of paramount importance for any producer. One is to appoint a strong importer in the market and, depending on your volume, one importer nationally or several at provincial level. This person is your eyes and ears on the ground and is crucial to your business. The second requirement is to regularly visit the market. If you’re serious about doing business with any of the liquor boards and growing the business they expect to see you regularly – at least once a year. It also helps you get a better understanding of the market. Canada’s provinces all vary – a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.

How complicated is the Canadian import system?

It’s not that complicated at all. Depending on the province, there’s a mix of liquor boards, private shops and now also grocery stores selling alcoholic beverages. Each has its own system for putting out calls for new products to taste and hopefully buy. If you partner with a strong importer who wants to help you grow your business they become an important conduit for what’s happening in the market and giving you a heads up about new opportunities and any challenges that may arise.

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