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The Canadian Market

Canada is a country that occupies much of North America and is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. The provinces have autonomous management, but they areunder a single central power. 

This country is sui generis because there isn't a single Canadian market, but rather 10 different markets in the same country. Each province has its own culture and so different regarding the consumer when compared with all other. It is therefore vital to realize that this country offers 10 different market behaviours and the approach to each market should be made equally distinctive.

I will address the market of the province of Quebec, the one I have the most experience personally, and which is the only francophone province of Canada.

Although large, with a surface of 9 984 670 km2, Canada has a population of only 34,800,000 inhabitants; it is the second largest country in the world in area, after Russia, but with a small population regarding its total area. In the province of Quebec inhabit 7,000,000 inhabitants, of whom 3,000,000 are concentrated between the town of Saint Laurent and Montreal.

The Quebec market stands out of other markets on the North America continent because it is a market with deep historical roots, behaving very differently from others.

The province of Quebec operates a system of regulated monopoly by government authorities, where all alcoholic products entering the market are subject to inspection by the authorities. The importation of wines for Quebec can be performed by independent companies, but the control and the mandatory licenses are delivered by the Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ), the State Company that has the monopoly.

The SAQ is a monopoly system extremely well organized, allowing private imports to professionals, and offering different segment stores, enabling the distribution of wine with an almost perfect positioning. The SAQ is divided into five types of stores where the wines are grouped in accordance with the quality and price. This positioning of wine tasting in different shops can even be made in function of the District of the city where this is located, which means the wines with a source close to the local culture have greater prominence on the shelves. Is a highly professional system that responds very well to the preferences of the consumer.

This positioning of the different ranges of wines at different stores, represents an added value for the consumer and for the producers, so they know exactly what is sold in each store and what the quality is associated with the commercial space.

Quebec's economy is a strong economy, based on the service industry, with particular emphasis on the aeronautical industry and tourism.

In this province the monopoly owned a wide selection of wines from all countries, including the making of a careful selection within the same region, sorting them by sub-regions. However, and as in all systems of monopoly, the trade in alcoholic beverages is very controlled. The wine entry on the market is subject to the launch of international tenders aimed at replying to the wine profiles required by the SAQ.

In Montreal there is a significant Portuguese community, 429,850 Portuguese-Canadians (Source: Canada 2011 Census), located in a central district of the city, which is part of the tourist itinerary of those who visit the city. Since the Portuguese gastronomy is quite appreciated by tourists who assiduously attend this neighbourhood, Portuguese wines may find here a good opportunity for positioning. Currently the Portuguese wines represent on the market just 4% of the total sales, which seems a percentage well below the potential 10% I predict.

In short: the wine market of Quebec, although governed by a monopoly system that restricts the purchases and that is sometimes sloppy on the quality of wines in what regards the prices, is a market with interest for the Portuguese wines. The Portuguese culture already installed in various parts of Canada, particularly in Quebec, can be a great starting point for greater recognition and increased sales volume.
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