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Cultural differences mean that there’s more to Canada’s wine market than meets the eye

When it comes to the Canadian wine market, it looks as though there are many classic traits of a maturing wine market that can be easily applied, on the surface at least. Steady, but slowing, growth; a strong cohort of knowledgeable and adventurous consumers; and increasing numbers of regular drinkers are all present in this market, which is currently the 12th largest in the world.

On the positive side, a steadily growing population, and a higher proportion of whom are drinking wine at least once a month, has resulted in a two million increase in adults drinking wine at least once a month since 2013.

16.6 million Canadian adults currently enjoy at least a monthly drink – a figure which amounts to 59% of all adults. However, growth in the Canadian wine market has slowed in recent years; between 2013 and 2014, per capita wine consumption growth dropped below 1%, whilst growth in still wine market volumes over the same period were limited to an increase of just 2%, and sparkling wine growth was just 0.5% (IWSR 2015).

There are signs that wine isn’t the only category showing signs of slowing down. Beer is reaching fewer wine drinkers than 2013, along with rum, and liqueurs. Beer Canada reports a decrease of 1.2% of beer consumption compared to 2013, and that since 2009, the Canadian beer category has declined by 3.4%. Arguably, these statistics point to a mirroring of trends also seen in several other markets, with consumers curbing their alcohol consumption as they become more health and well-being conscious.

But it isn’t until we look under the surface of Canada as a wine market that opportunities start to become evident. Dividing trends by the nation’s two biggest cultural groups – French-speaking Quebec and English-speaking Canada – reveals characteristics that reflect each community’s history and cultural influences.

Our report reaffirms the long-held Quebecois bias towards Old World wines, with French wines by far the most popular in the province, followed by Italy and Spain. We also see the Quebecois affinity for all things traditionally European in other areas. They are more likely to drink Rosé, for example – in fact over half do, compared with just a third of English-speaking Canadian regular wine drinkers.

And where brands are concerned, European favourites such as JP Chenet and Mouton Cadet are much more likely to be found (and picked up by consumers) on the shelves of an SAQ store in Quebec than an LCBO in Ontario.

Conversely, Anglophone parts of the country are more likely to draw their influences from both south of the border, with Californian wines topping the charts amongst consumer recollections, and also from domestic regions, such as the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario.

English-speaking Canadians are also more likely to be drinking other beverages which are trending globally such as whiskey, cider or Prosecco, and their brand recollections reflect their connection to the Anglophone world, with domestic, US and Australian brands dominating.

These differences all point towards a complex and interesting market – whilst Canada may seem relatively straightforward at first glance, getting to know it in more depth requires a little more careful attention.

For more information, see our new Canada Landscapes 2016 Report, out now.

Author: Chris Giles