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How to deal with the diversity of Canada’s 13 provincial wine markets

It’s no secret that Canada’s provincially controlled liquor boards effectively divide the country into 13 separate markets. But what makes each provincial market different? Are there parallels that can be used to successfully market and distribute wine in such a fragmented environment? We’ve explored the differences and similarities between each province to help direct an approach to selling wine in Canada that can be both holistic and efficient.

In any marketing strategy it’s important to establish a sensible target and focus effort towards the most valuable consumers. Our latest study shows that 87% of Canada’s regular wine drinkers reside in 3 provinces – Ontario (40%), Quebec (28%) and British Columbia (19%). While not very holistic from a geographical point of view, gaining traction in these 3 provinces provides access to a vast majority of the Canadian wine market.

Discrepancies between these provinces can be quite challenging from a marketing point of view. For starters, the divide between English speaking Ontario and British Columbia and French speaking Quebec has a significant influence on cultural ties and wine consumption behaviour. In Quebec, a significantly higher amount of consumers drink red and rosé wine based on their affinity with traditional European culture. Consumption of wine from different source countries and regions also varies significantly between the English and French speaking parts of Canada. While the majority of consumers in Ontario and British Columbia regularly drink domestic wine, consumers in Quebec favour old world producers such as France and Italy (see table below). French regions dominate in Quebec with Bordeaux, Côtes du Rhône and Beaujolais holding 3 of the top 4 spots in terms of consumption. Quebecers are also typically willing to spend a bit more on wine to drink at home and are generally more involved with the wine category.

So where then is the common ground within these markets? Consumers in all 3 provinces have similar wine consumption frequency and use parallel choice cues for purchasing wine, with the exception of ‘grape variety’ showing higher importance in Ontario and British Columbia. As expected, the major similarities exist between the two English speaking provinces, beginning with their preference for locally produced wine. Regions native to each province are by far the most popular for locals with the Niagara Peninsula holding the top spot in Ontario and Okanagan in British Columbia. Equally, Napa Valley, Tuscany, and Bordeaux also appear in the top 5 for both provinces.


British Columbia Ontario Québec
Canada Canada France
California California Italy
Australia Italy California
Italy Australia Australia
Chile France Canada

Understanding the cultural differences and similarities that drive wine consumption behaviour in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia is key to developing a successful approach to the Canadian wine market. Stay tuned for more information regarding Canadian consumer segmentation in our upcoming Canada Portraits report to be published at the end of September.

Author: Mike Werner