just the Answer - Janet Dorozynski, Canada's Global Lead on Beer, Spirits, Wine
When it comes to drinks, Canada is best known for its ice wines and whiskies. But, how are these categories performing globally? And, does the country's social reference pricing, a form of minimum pricing, really make a difference? Here, James Wilmore talks to Janet Dorozynski, the global lead on wine, beer and spirits for the Canadian Government's Foreign Affairs and International Trade department
just-drinks: What are the priority markets for Canada's drinks producers right now?
Janet Dorozynski: We've decided to focus on a few key markets for exports: London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York and then a few secondary markets. Because the capacity for Canada's wine exports is very small, we can't say we're interested in China or the UK, so we have to be very specific and focussed on particular cities.
j-d: How is ice wine performing internationally?
Janet Dorozynski, global practice lead, Canadian wine, beer and spirits, for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
JD: It still is our flagship product. But over the years, the acutal percentage and value of sales has remained static. We're seeing more table wine exports.
j-d: Why is ice wine suffering?
JD: As you know, sweet wine is a hard sell the world over. Even though we make fabulous sweet wine, people don't really drink sweet wine that often. I think that whole group of wines is having problems.
j-d: Is the price point an issue?
JD: A lot of journalists tell us that Canadian ice wine is still quite expensive, relative to German and Austrian ice wine, so that could be a factor as well. But, I think the whole category is not very robust right now. Many new Canadian wine producers consciously do not make ice wine and are not interested. We still make a lot of it, but there's less interest from newer wineries.
j-d: Canada's domestic table wine industry is growing - what do you put that down to?
JD: There's been a lot of local support, particualarly in British Columbia and Ontario. People have seen that it's an interesting industry to get into. We are just like other new world countries, where more people want to get into that business. Plus, consumers want to buy local products. We'll never stop prodcucing ice wine, but there's now a focus on other types of wine and showing the world we can do other things.
j-d: Would you say Canadian whiskey is fulfilling its potential worldwide?
JD: No, I don't think so and I think the industry itself would say that. We have the capacity, but there's a lot of unfulfilled demand. We need to brand Canadian whiskey. There's a definite interest to do something. I've talked to producers in Canada who have the ability and the raw materials (to up production).
j-d: Why is there that gap?
JD: It's a heavily-taxed industry and producers believe that because of that they do not have funds required to do international marketing. Also, many Canadian whiskey producers are owned outright or have a complicated ownership strucuture. They are owned by Diageo, or whoever; a multinational that represents a whole multitude of whisk(e)y brands, where decisions are made corporately. I guess Canadian whiskey is not their priority in terms of marketing.
j-d: How is Canada's craft beer industry faring globally?
JD: The craft beer industry in Canada is sort of like the wine industry was 15 years ago, when they first started exporting. I think there is interest there right now, but they're still very much focussed on the domestic market and finding their feet. So I think, maybe in ten years you might see them getting out there.
j-d: And, ice cider; how's that doing?
JD: It's good. It's unique to Canada, based on the production technique for ice wine. The success of ice cider is quite remarkable actually. Several producers have now got worldwide distribution contracts.
j-d: Minimum pricing is very much on the agenda in the UK. Is Canada's own version, social reference pricing, effective?
JD: There are studies that show it's resulted in less alcohol abuse in Canada. Personally, I'm not sure I believe that. There's other countries (without a floor price) where alcohol is part of a normal lifestyle.
j-d: So, you don't think a minimum unit price in the UK would have an impact?
JD: Minimum pricing might have an impact on younger people with less money who have the propensity to be binge-drinkers. But in general, people binge-drink for a reason, there's something behind it. I don't think MUP is the solution. I don't think it will completely eliminate alcoholism and binge-drinking.
j-d: Finally, do you see beer remaining as Canada's dominant domestic category?
JD: Well, it's sliding and wine consumption is growing all the time. It's easy to say that wine might surpass beer. But, if you look at the craft beer renaissance, some of those drinkers might come over from wine.
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