Wine Distributor and Importer Guide: Canada

Wine Distributor and Importer Guide: Canada (Updated 2024)

General information about Canada

Canada is the second largest country in the world with a population of 40.52 million inhabitants. Its economy is the tenth largest in the world (2023) with a nominal GDP of US$2.117tr (2023). Canada’s GDP (PPP) per capita ranks 28th in the world. About 70% of the population is employed in the service sector, 28% in industry, and just under 2% in agriculture. The economy of Canada is closely linked to the global economy and is deeply integrated into global trade. Its largest cities by population are ranked as follows: Toronto (2.79m), Montreal (1.76m), Calgary (1.30m), Ottawa (1.02m), and Edmonton (1.01m).

Importing wine to Canada

Canada is one of the largest importers of wine in the world, and it imported US$2.25bn worth of wine in 2021, making it the fourth-highest importer in the world. The main countries from which its imports originated are1:

  1. France (US$557m)
  2. United States (US$491m)
  3. Italy (US$457m)
  4. Spain (US$144m)
  5. Australia (US$141m)

Almost all Canadian wine importers operate only within their provinces, working closely with provincial monopolies that control most aspects of the wine market. The exceptions are wine importers such as Crush Imports, The Wine Syndicate, and Sedimentary Wines which are all active in British Columbia and in neighbouring Alberta, as well as a few other importers, of which the numbers are few.

The province of Quebec – with its unique culture, strongly influenced by France – is a major importer of wine, as is Ontario and British Colombia. It is useful to keep provinces in mind, as the semi-independence of provinces will affect your imports.

Wine distribution in Canada

Canada has a unique structure with regards to its wine market which is governed by provincial liquor control boards that hold a monopoly on the market. However, each province has a government-controlled liquor control board which regulates liquor licensing, importation of alcoholic beverages, labelling, and packaging standards. In the province of Alberta, the alcohol market is completely open and private. Four Canadian provinces account for 94% of all wine sales in the country, and these are: Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Generally speaking, alcohol, and wine in particular, are sold in the country through retail channels, including government retail, supermarket, and convenience shops, as well as through on-premises channels. The distribution system varies per province. In British Columbia there is a mixed system in which the features of a monopoly with its own wine distribution network are combined with retail stores and a private store network. For example, let’s consider the province of Ontario.

The provincial board is known as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and operates as the importer of record, wholesalers, and primary retailer of wines in Ontario. LCBO owns the largest wine distribution network, where imported wines account for 75% of their sales. In total, the monopoly occupies 80% of the Ontario market with its 600 retail stores. A detailed report on the Ontario wine market can be found here:

Wine importers and distributors guide: Canada

The main provincial monopolies that operate in Canada are:

  • British Columbia (BC Liquor Distribution Branch, BCLDB)
  • Ontario (Liquor Control Board of Ontario, LCBO)
  • Manitoba (Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, MBLL)
  • Québec (Société des alcools du Québec, SAQ)
  • Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, NSLC)
  • New Brunswick (New Brunswick Liquor Corporation, or Alcool NB Liquor, ANBL)
  • Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, SLGA)

Wine consumer preferences in Canada

Per capita, wine consumption in Canada is low at 4.2 litres per person (2021 and 2022). There is a downward trend in this indicator; in 2018, the figure was 4.9 litres per person.2 Still wines dominate the Canadian wine market in terms of both value and volume.

In general, it is difficult to assess the general preferences of Canadians due to the fact that each province of Canada has formed its own unique profile, both in consumption patterns and preferences, and in the channels for the sale and distribution of wine. However, research on consumer preferences may also be useful. So, according to Statista, 26.49% of wine consumers reported that they buy red wines, 21.36% consume white wines, and 10% of respondents stated that they have an equal preference for both white and red wines. About 8% prefer rose wines, 6.5% sparkling wines, whereas 26.7% said they had no preference, and less than 1% said they preferred fortified wines.3

Wine manufacturing in Canada

As of 2019, there were 638 wineries and 1,907 vineyards in Canada, which produced 118,295 tons of grapes from a total land area of 30,940 bearing acres.4

Canada ranks twelfth in the world in terms of wine exported outside the country (2022). Its export volume amounted to 2.1 millions of hectoliters, which is 2.4% more than the previous year. However, 99% of exports were bulk wine, so by value, the export volume is low, accounting for just 81m euros. However, this is 21% more than the year before.5


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