Wine Distributor and Importer Guide: Canada
Vinaty’s guide to the Canada market for wine distributors and importers
Canada sits a little outside the top ten wine importers in the world, with Wine Australia reporting an annual still wine consumption of approximately 447 million litres, 70% of which is imported. per cent of wine consumption. 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's useful to keep provinces in mind, as the semi-independence of provinces will affect your imports. Quebec and Ontario, for example, operate under what Sommelier Business calls “a government monopoly system, with provincial liquor boards acting as the sole importer and distributor of beverage alcohol.” You’ll find greater freedom in other provinces, but a tiny market outside of urban centres to the south. Remember that Canada is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, with a population density of only 3.7 people per square kilometre.
According to Best Wine Importer, the five largest wine importers to Canada were… well, we always begin with Italy and France. The United States, being a neighbour, is hardly a surprise in third place. Next come Australia and Spain, which, with increased duties and cost of travel, look a little vulnerable in fourth and fifth place. Could a savvy investor knock them off their perch? They’d need to know that Canadians drink mostly still wine, with sparkling wine only 3% of sales in 2019, and fortified wine a measly 1% according to WM Strategy. In the end, imports may suffer with the warming climate: Canada, like Scandinavia, will soon its wine-growing regions expand and its domestic production increase accordingly.
According to EatNorth, the advantages of the Canadian market are clear: value growth outstrips volume growth, and the overall market is up by a third when compared to five years ago. Average pricing is good too: between US$ 0.83 and US$ 1.03 per kilogram according to Selina Wamucii. But this price can vary hugely between states, with some bottles fluctuating by more than CAD 5.00. As well as internal border tariffs, it’s worth thinking of the cost of marketing. Any wine that wishes to access the lucrative Quebecois market, for example, will need twice the publicity: once in English, once in French.
A mixed picture, then, from Canada. The current attractiveness of the market may dray importers in, but the long-term picture is difficult to predict. EatNorth points out trends seen across the market: an interest in canned wines, micro-businesses, and sustainable produce like Piquette. But it’s another trend that will really hinder the market, namely, young people turning away from alcohol. Decreased consumption and a stronger domestic market are unlikely to strengthen the import market, which is why it may be wise to look elsewhere in the mid-to-long term.