B.C. wine industry disappointed over USMCA-related grocery store sales changes

B.C.’s wine industry will soon lose its advantage of dedicated grocery in-store shelf space

B.C. wine industry disappointed over USMCA-related grocery store sales changes

Dirty Laundry winery in Summerland, B.C., estimates it will sell fewer bottles of red and white in grocery stores as shelf space previously reserved for local companies will soon be shared with U.S. imports.

“I don’t think it’ll be devastating, but it will certainly impact us,” said Paul Sawler, the winery’s director of sales and marketing.

B.C.’s wine industry will soon lose its advantage of dedicated grocery in-store shelf space — a practice deemed discriminatory through the lens of U.S. President Donald Trump’s America-first ethos — as grocers will have to make room for out-of-province offerings.

But with the Nov. 1, 2019 deadline for implementation more than a year away, those in the industry say it’s difficult to know what the change will look like and just how hard it’ll hit local vintners.

Imported wines currently can only be sold at the province’s grocery stores in a so-called store-within-a-store model, which the U.S. has called discriminatory and complained about to the World Trade Organization alleging unfair sales practices.

The U.S. and Canada agreed to end the “ongoing trade concern” in a pair of side letters to the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement reached late Sunday night.

The change is not surprising, but is disappointing, said Miles Prodan, the CEO of the B.C. Wine Institute, a not-for-profit organization that represents the interests of the province’s wineries.

READ MORE: U.S. president cheers new USMCA trade deal, heralds end of NAFTA era

There are 271 licensed grape wineries in the province, according to the institute, and the industry contributes $2.8 billion annually to the B.C. economy.

The majority of the wineries are small in scale, he said, producing about 5,000 cases a year or less.

The grocery-store model was the only real channel many of these smaller operations had to access consumers, he said.

“The growth of the sales for small wineries increased significantly,” he said.

“Prior to that, and it continues to be, very difficult for small wineries to access retail stores,” he said, adding everyone, including foreign wines, beer and spirits, is fighting for limited space within existing stores.

For Dirty Laundry, which this year will produce 30,000 cases, it’s not a critical source of sales, but an important market and the winery’s fastest growing one, Sawler said.

It accounts for 15 per cent of the company’s sales in the province, not including on the vineyard’s premises, he said. The company anticipates its sales in the channel will fall as a result.

“But how much it will impact us? You know, it’s anybody’s guess at this point,” he said, adding a lot depends on how the grocery chains handle the change.

The grocers themselves don’t yet know what the future will look like.

Only 29 grocery stores in the province sell B.C. wine in aisles as the practice requires a special licence.

Save-On-Foods offers provincial wine at 19 of its stores.

“We don’t believe this change in legislation will affect our operations and it definitely does not affect our long-standing commitment to supporting our local B.C. wineries and the B.C. agri-food industry,” the chain wrote in an email.

Loblaw Companies Ltd. sells B.C. wine at 10 of its stores, but doesn’t have any further licences and thus no plans for expanding the practice at the moment, spokeswoman Catherine Thomas wrote in an email.

The company doesn’t have enough information about the changes to provide any comment on how its in-store wine stock will change come November 2019, she said.

Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Jethro Rolland, 8, and Guinevere Rolland, 6, test out the ice at the new outdoor rink in 100 Mile House. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).
Outdoor ice rinks popular Cariboo pastime

The skaters are out this winter across the South Cariboo.

A power outage Thursday night left nearly 3,000 homes in Clinton and the 70 Mile areas in the dark. (Katie McCullough photo).
Updated: Clinton, 70 Mile left in the dark after vehicle crashes into transmission pole

BC Hydro still working to restore power to 330 homes in 70 Mile House

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
115 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths in Interior Health

There are now a total of 4,970 cases in the region

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Most Read