Market watch: Canada
Wosa market manager for Canada Laurel Keenan talks to WineLand about “cult Chenin”, the role of somms and other opportunities in this growing market.
What are some of the key trends in the Canadian market?
A number of the key trends in the Canadian market mirror those of the US. On the wine front, there’s been a big upswing in sparkling and rosé sales. Sweet wines – brands like Apothic Red and Menage a Trois – continue to perform well along with Moscato. Buying local also remains a big trend. Looking more broadly at beverage alcohol, craft beer continues to grow in double digits and there’s a big return to brown spirits – primarily whisky and bourbon.
Another trend is continuous innovation. There are new flavours, packaging and brands arriving every day. Competition is fierce and the ability to stay relevant with consumers remains a changeable entity, especially with millennials.
A more recent trend among the liquor board buyers is interest in indigenous or known grapes from certain countries. This is something to think about with regard to Chenin Blanc and, to a lesser extent, Pinotage.
What are some of the key opportunities for South Africa?
Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and blends are places where South Africa is doing well and can continue to grow in Canada. Particularly with the sommelier crowd, Chenin Blanc is a cult favourite and given the right education and right brands, key restaurants have started adding Chenin by the glass and helping to tell the story to their customers. Sommeliers are an area of huge opportunity for South Africa. We have built a strong reputation for overdelivering on quality.
What can South Africa do to improve its image in Canada?
South Africa needs to continue to spend time with the key influencers in the provinces – the liquor board buyers, private store buyers, sommeliers and media. It’s critical that producers visit the market regularly and put time and thought into their choice of importer on the ground. Importers are key to driving the business and an important line of contact in Canada.
We must also continue to give influencers opportunities to taste the “new” South Africa. The wines have changed dramatically over time and the only way to move past negative perceptions is to convince people by pouring great wines. And while we aren’t able to control the global press regarding South Africa at large, we continue to work closely with the SA consulate and other partners with a like-minded interest in promoting the country.