Restaurant sales

British Columbia Wineries Seek To Improve Market Share As Restaurant Sales Dip

Sales of British Columbia wines at restaurants are down by more than 50% as wineries innovate to convince local customers to buy direct from the source.

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AT Singletree Vineyard in Abbotsford, an innovation introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic has been so popular it remains even after physical distancing ends.

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This has helped Singletree counter a provincial trend of declining sales of BC wines to the hotel and restaurant industry linked to the spiraling drop in tourism.

In mid-January, Single tree on Mt. Lehman Road opened two Di Vine Domes, the wine cellar’s version of the dining bubbles. The translucent geodesic domes can accommodate between two and six people at a time. The Enchanted Forest Dome, for example, has a twig chandelier and cedar top; the Canadian Cabin Dome, a cowhide rug and checkered buffalo blankets.

The cost is $ 50 per person. Depending on the package, it includes a mix of in-store in-flight tastings, wine and charcuterie purchases. On Fridays and Saturdays, tastings and a three-course meal by Chef Adrian Beaty cost $ 75.

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Debbie etsell , owner of the family winery with her husband Garnet, said the response had been so “overwhelming” that she had to bring back all of her staff. The domes have been used by people to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. They even saw a few marriage proposals.

“It was really fun finding an innovative way to meet the needs of our customers and the domes certainly did it for us,” said Etsell, winery marketing coordinator. “The domes are a really interesting experience to have. We will keep them.

Etsell said Single tree has seen a decline in the number of international travelers, but an increase in local customers in the Lower Mainland. She believes locals who might have made it to southern Napa Valley in previous years have stayed closer to home and spent their money at BC wineries such as Singletree.

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Miles Prodan, President and CEO of BC winemakers (prior to February 1, it was known as the BC Wine Institute), said overall wine sales during the pandemic increased in British Columbia. What was not the case was the market share of BC wines.

“Our market share has not grown as much as it should be,” he said by phone from Kelowna.

Customers, he said, have become more price conscious. If they’re in a liquor store looking to buy wine, they tend to buy an $ 8 bottle in Spain rather than a $ 15 bottle in British Columbia.

“Over time during COVID-19, people have gone for the cheaper wines,” he said. “Imported wines increased more during the pandemic than wines from British Columbia.”

Debbie Etsell, owner of the Singletree Winery in Abbotsford, offers dining bubbles called Di Vine Domes, in the winery on March 19.
Debbie Etsell, owner of the Singletree Winery in Abbotsford, offers dining bubbles called Di Vine Domes, in the winery on March 19. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Statistics published by Prodan in BC Wine Industry Conference show that the pandemic has caused sales of British Columbia wines to decline in the hospitality sector, including restaurants, by more than 50%, a decline that continues into 2021.

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British Columbia’s overall wine market share fell almost 4%, while import sales increased just under 1%.

International and non-resident travel to British Columbia increased from 19 million during a nine-month period in 2019, compared to just over one million for the same period in 2020. The BC Business Council called the pandemic-related decline of ‘rushed’ and ‘eye-catching’.

Some wineries have offset lower restaurant sales by expanding online offerings through wine clubs, Prodan said.

The experience of the winery has also changed. Because people now have to make reservations to taste the wines, they get a more in-depth and organized wine experience. Prodan expects this new way of doing business to continue after the pandemic.

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“Those who came for the tastings left with more wine per person to make up for the lack of numbers,” he said.

He expects 2021 to be a slow and cautious year, especially as travel restrictions are expected to remain in place all summer.

“I think it will be some time before people start jumping on a plane to go anywhere,” he said.

“When things open up and people start traveling, going to a vineyard will be high on their list.”

Lulie Halstead, co-founder and CEO of Wine intelligence based in London, England, told conference attendees that the pandemic has accelerated the trend toward national wines among Canadian drinkers. She said research has shown there is “a stronger connection for BC wine among women and older drinkers, and an opportunity to educate retailers about BC wine.”

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British Columbia Wine Facts:

Number of wineries in British Columbia: 284.

Number in the Fraser Valley: 26.

Number of wineries in British Columbia: 929.

Planted area: 4,152 hectares (10,260 acres).

Annual contribution to the provincial economy: $ 2.8 billion.

The three main white varieties per planted area: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer.

The first three reds: Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Number of official wine regions: nine (Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands, Thompson Valley, Shuswap, Lillooet, Kootenays).

Number of weekly wine drinkers in Canada: 12.1 million.

In British Columbia : 1.9 million.

– Source: Wine Intelligence, Wines of BC

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