B.C. wine industry celebrates one year of B.C. VQA wine in grocery stores

Photo courtesy of Wines of British Columbia.

On April 1, 2016 B.C.’s wine industry reflected on the incredible advances that wine-in-grocery has made since the province of B.C.’s new liquor regulations took effect one year ago, following the government’s province-wide Liquor Policy Review, allowing 100 per cent B.C. wines (BC VQA) to be sold on grocery store shelves for the first time.

With the opening of Wines of British Columbia Save-On-Foods East Maple Ridge in the lower mainland this week, there are now seven B.C. VQA wine-in-grocery stores in the province providing consumers with food pairing convenience and encouraging people to “buy local” when it comes to their wine and food.

“The goal of wine-in-grocery is to expand the success of our B.C. VQA Wine Stores and give consumers the convenience and access to a larger selection of premium-quality B.C. VQA – 100 per cent B.C. wines to pair with other great B.C. agrifoods,” says Miles Prodan, president & CEO of the BC Wine Institute. “In the first year sales have been higher than anticipated, and with another seven stores planned to open in the coming months, including stores in Vancouver Island and Northern B.C., we are pleased to see B.C. VQA Wine become even more accessible to consumers province wide.”

Since the first grocery BC VQA Wine Store opened on April 1, 2015, more than 50,000 bottles of B.C. VQA wine have been sold, resulting in over $3 million in retail sales and several hundred thousand shoppers being exposed to the Wines of British Columbia, some perhaps for the first time.

Over 60 per cent of the 900 wines available at each store come from small and medium-sized wineries, and 50 per cent of those not available through any other liquor retail channel. Some of B.C.’s hard to source BC VQA Wines not widely available in BC Liquor Stores are among those that have benefitted most in the first year of wine sales through this channel.

Paul Graydon, owner of Saxon Winery in Summerland reports a 100 per cent increase in their BC VQA Wine Store sales since becoming involved in wine-in-grocery. “For small wineries like us who are not listed by the LDB, Save-On-Foods offers a strong distribution channel to reach more wine consumers than ever before,” says Graydon. “We see over 200 customers in one six hour tasting, that’s more people than we would meet in any other environment. It’s been working very well for us and long may it continue.”

Leonard and Myra Kwiatkowski, owners of Topshelf Winery, a small family owned winery in Kaleden are currently in their fifth year of production and claim that wine-in-grocery stores have been a great asset for them. “Being a small and relatively new winery, Save-On-Foods has given us just the outlet we need to increase our brand awareness and it’s been great for business. It gives our customers another access point to our wines and when asked where to find Topshelf wines when planning their meals, it is easy to say Save-On-Foods,” Leonard remarks. “BC VQA Wines complement mealtime, customers can even find suggested food pairings on our wine labels. I have to say thank you to Save-On-Foods for supporting small wineries and local BC VQA Wine.”

THE FACTS: 100 per cent BC Wine-in-Grocery

  • There are 21 BCWI BC VQA licences today and in 2016, the BC government will auction an estimated 24 “Bill 22 – Special Wine Store Licences” making a maximum of only 45 “wine on shelf” licences possible for the entire Province. In total, these licences represent about 2.5 per cent of retail outlets in the province.
  • Currently, wine-in-grocery stores with BC VQA Wine Store licences carry nearly 1,000 100 per cent BC VQA Wine products from more than 150 wineries.
  • More than 50 per cent of wine-in-grocery sales are from small wineries not carried by the Liquor Distribution Branch, meaning that these wines and wineries are being exposed to the marketplace in a meaningful way for the first time thanks to this new sales channel.
  • BC VQA is growing faster than any other wine category in the marketplace. Total BC VQA Sales Growth over the previous year averaged 15 per cent.
  • Total Provincial Wine Market Share in BC average 14 per cent, outpacing imports by nearly 10 per cent.
  • Winery Direct sales and tourism is at an all-time high with 30 per cent of BC VQA Wines sold directly from cellar doors in 2015.
  • The number of wineries and wine regions in British Columbia is at an all-time high including: 256 grape wineries; five designated viticultural areas (wine regions); one sub-appellation; and four emerging wine regions.
  • The acreage planted in the ground is at an all-time high at 10,260 acres.
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