April (No. 495)
Canada - compelling message, strong results!
Greg Homonlyo , Director, Australian Wine Bureau, Canada
The volume of exports of Australian wines to Canada in 2004 were nothing shy of spectacular. I will explore the basis of our collective success, and then turn to an examination of our outlook and proposed direction for 2005 and beyond.
2001-04: coverage and presence
Initially Australia’s wine exports were isolated to a few provinces only. We made the decision to expand our market base via a planned roll out of Australian wine to other parts of the country. Our hope was to ensure a more comprehensive focus on consumers outside of the “easiest to export to,” or “largest by population” provinces. However, when examining wine exports to Canada in 2004 it is essential to appreciate the provincial dynamics at play, as each region has unique characteristics. In order to ensure a successful expansion for the industry, in the past year the Australian Wine Bureau visited and analysed each individual market in order to develop customised regionally-specific business plans. Our attention to detail yielded very positive results.
After first tackling the larger provinces, or those with the least resistance, we then pursued the broader markets. For instance, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia have all witnessed dramatic growth for Australian wine exports, specifically as a result of our effort to expand coverage and presence. If they do not know about us, they cannot support us. Our effort was to have a transparent operation and to make good on our promises. We promoted assertively in these regions and consequently earned the right to more shelf space. This approach in turn led to a broader offer to the consumer, which created the momentum cycle that we are still currently enjoying. Of course, it did not hurt that we were offering a vibrant category with new products and prices.
Importantly the on-premise has also seen a focus for Australia’s main brands. Again, initially this channel was not the easiest route to market and so we played where it was simpler and more wins could be extracted. In particular we have made gains in Western Canada. Our success there is possibly a reaction to other territories (UK learning) as we wish to be in step with potential from an early stage, or possibly because exports to Western Canada in general are so vibrant. Suffice to say, Australian companies and their agents are doing good work in the Western Canadian restaurant sector. They have over the past few years delved more deeply to unlock the potential.
Much of our gains come from hand selling, however, larger restaurant chains are certainly being exploited as well. While we are all aware that France and Italy have done a great historical job of selling their cuisine and simultaneously marketing their wine as the logical accompaniment to French and Italian meals, the Western Canadian culture has bought into ‘Brand California', and thus embraced the new world. Our flavour and packaging profile allowed us to leverage from this shift in consumer behaviour in Western Canada. We believe that this trend will continue, and will expand to other parts of Canada, particularly into the middle and eastern regions. The on-premise will continue to be an important and worthy focus for our Australian industry in 2005 and beyond.
While the three-year initial cycle was about expanding coverage, we are now focusing on exploring ‘depth’ of coverage in key markets. Our goal was to engage the multitude of provinces and get beyond off-premise development; we have accomplished our goals. And while there is still work to be done, we must continue to strike while the fire is hot. Our focus now must be on 2005 and beyond to determine how best to utilise our team strength and team resources.
NOTE: The complete article can be found in the April issue of The Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker.