Tiny wines find a home in BC’s market as Canadians consider reducing consumption

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VANCOUVER — Wine lovers have growing options on the shelf to enjoy their favorite drink as BC manufacturers offer smaller containers.

Several British Columbia wineries have begun offering their products in smaller, single-serve cans and bottles in recent years.

Small containers not only make wine more attractive to those who want to backpack or drink on the golf course, but also provide opportunities for wineries to potentially change their mindset as Canadians debate the benefits for the health of reducing alcohol consumption.

Vancouver-based wine consultant Kurtis Kolt said he sees the segment of the wine industry that offers smaller bottles and cans “exploding” in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 as people gather outside in parks and congregate on beaches looking for something more portable to take home.

“They don’t affect the quality, you know? In fact, if someone just wants a glass or two, open a can and it will be absolutely fresh, guaranteed,” he said.

It is also beneficial for people who want to drink less, he said.

“It’s much less of an obligation to open a can or a small bottle or a smaller jar than it is to open a bottle,” he said.

“Then you have to decide how fast to work or you end up throwing something away if it doesn’t finish.”

Last month, the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Dependence released a report funded by Health Canada that says no amount of alcohol is safe and that those who consume up to two standard drinks per week are at low health risk.

That’s a significant change from the center’s 2011 advice, which said 15 drinks a week for men and 10 drinks a week for women were low risk.

Health Canada said it will review the report.

Charlie Baessler, managing partner of Corcelettes Estate winery in the inner South, said his Santé en Cannette sparkling wine in a can hit the market in 2020 as a low-calorie option with reduced alcohol levels and sugar.

“We’ve done everything we can to attract a slightly younger millennial market segment with a fun cant design concept and sparkling, low alcohol – all those things that have been a big topic in the news lately,” he he said.

Santé en Cannette is a nine percent wine, and reducing the alcohol is one way to reduce its calories, he said. The can also makes it attractive for events such as picnics or golf, it is recyclable and makes it easier for restaurants that want to offer sparkling wine by the glass without opening a whole bottle.

At the same time, the lower alcohol content makes it an option for people who may want a glass of wine without feeling the same effect that comes from a higher alcohol content, he said.

“So health is clearly an incentive, but I think the most important thing is to enjoy a locally made BC product from a wine boutique, dare I say, with a mimosa at 11 and not ruin your day,” he said.

Baessler said that since the product was launched, the winery has doubled production to around 30,000 cans a year, which it aims to achieve this year.

He said there is of course a market for the product, but he doesn’t expect it to compete with higher alcohol wine.

“So that’s not our Holy Grail. This is something we do for fun, and we will never compete or detract from our core line of mature, higher alcohol wines,” he said.

Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of BC, which represents bars, pubs and private liquor stores, said the industry has seen a shift in consumers who want more convenient options.

“It’s not a huge change in consumer behavior, but it’s definitely a noticeable one, which is why you’re seeing big companies respond to it,” he said.

Guignard said the recent CCSA report creates greater awareness and a desire to educate themselves about responsible consumption choices, which is a good thing, but adds that it is important for people to consider the relative risk of their actions.

“If you’re eating fast food three meals a day, I don’t think having beer or no beer is going to be the number one factor in your health,” he said.

“But from a consumer perspective, drinks manufacturers are naturally responding to changing consumer preferences with different packaging or different products, as you’ve seen a large number of low or non-alcoholic drinks launched in the last five years.”

While he will not predict how much the market share can grow, Guignard said that soft drinks with a low alcohol level will continue to be a significant part of the market.

“I don’t know if it has peaked or if it will grow. We assume it will be part of the market for now.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on February 5, 2023.

Ashley Joannou, The Canadian Press


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