First quarter of our 2020-2021 fiscal year (April 1 – June 30) has witnessed some of the most tumultuous times our industry has ever faced.
Thankfully, our successful lobbying of government to have the BC wine industry recognized as an essential service kept wineries open under the March 17, 2020 COVID-19 Provincial Health Order that closed restaurants and licensed premises including tasting rooms. As a result, BC wineries were able to continue to sell their value-added agri-food product directly to customers with reported winery direct sales (onsite, online, etc.) increasing an average of 13% over the same period last year ̶ 21% for month of June when tasting rooms reopened under BCWI’s Winery and Hospitality Best Practices.
Over the same three-month period, we saw hospitality sales steadily decline an average of 16% ̶ a decline somewhat mitigated by the BC Wine Institute (BCWI) and Business Technical Advisory Panel (BTAP) lobbying for the temporary ability to sell off existing inventory directly to consumers when ordered with a meal.
More problematic for Q1 BC VQA Wine sales is our loss of market share. While it’s true overall wine sales in the province grew an average of 4.5%, BC VQA Wine market share declined by 1.7%. The first decline since March 2012 and due in part to an increase in large format sales (e.g. bag-in-box), not available to BC VQA Wines, and cheap foreign imports eager to meet the demand of BC’s COVID-19 weary consumers.
We are encouraged to see the loss of BC VQA provincial market share trend reverse in June as wineries reopened for consumer visits and retail trade support for the category including BCWI promotions.
There is no doubt COVID-19 has had, and will continue to have, a material effect on our industry and why it was important to support members with BCWI Fiscal 2021 Q1 Member dues (based on $.10 /litre of 100% BC grape wine reported sold in the province) included a COVID-19 Relief Adjustment.
The adjustment was based on COVID-19 related reductions to the FY21 Q1 BCWI budget (e.g. cancellation and/or savings in the move to virtual events, staff layoffs, etc.). The BCWI board felt a decrease in members’ dues best applied this quarter considering the pandemic’s impact on our industry.
We continue to monitor COVID-19 effects on our BCWI FY21 Operational Plan each quarter to determine the practicality of further COVID-19 Relief Adjustments.
Thank you for your continued support in recognizing the BCWI’s proven versatility and resourcefulness in continuing to deliver quality and effective marketing, communications and advocacy programming that justifies your continued voluntary participation in the organization during these times of uncertainty.
Navigating through phases 1, 2 and 3 has kept us on our toes throughout the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021 (Q1). With
Phase 1 ending May 18, Phase 2 ending June 23 and Phase 3 taking effect on June 24, we have found ourselves continually pivoting to strategically respond to this ever-changing environment. Each month of Q1 told a story of its own requiring a specialized, strategic marketing approach to provide greatly needed support to keep our industry growing strong.
April was driven completely by Phase 1 and the need for strong “Support Local” messaging and programming including a strong push to connect consumers with online Winery Direct access. Overall, April litre sales showed a modest increase of 9% across all channels when compared to April 2019. Winery direct litre sales led the way with the largest increase with a growth of 245% with hospitality continuing to decline with a decrease of 95%.
As we transitioned into May and traversed from Phase 1 into Phase 2, wineries and restaurants were given the green light to cautiously start reopening. “Support Local” continued to be the backbone to marketing programs to sustain and grow support for the local BC wine category. Across all channels, the month of May showed a 21% decrease in overall litre sales when compared to May 2019. Unlike April with Winery Direct showing a healthy increase, Winery Direct sales were down 35% with hospitality experiencing another monthly decrease of 86%.
With the anticipation of the Phase 3 roll out towards the end of June and the launch of BC’s high tourism season, a complimentary shift in messaging was developed to encourage locals to explore, discover and support local wineries in their own backyards. With more than 234 BC wineries slowly reopening in June our new user-friendly Wines of BC Explorer app was identified as a powerful tool to communicate up-to-date
information with BC wine lovers on new winery visitation protocols with their safety a priority and how the new winery visit experience would look.
As we close out Q1, we remain vigilant, flexible and reactive towards our road to recovery. We continue to pivot strategically, respond timely and together will keep our industry growing strong.
NEW NORMAL. SAME GENUINE PEOPLE. SAME BREATHTAKING PLACES. A NEW GREAT EXPERIENCE.
The beginning of a new fiscal marked the beginning of a new normal for the BC wine industry. Amidst everything that is happening globally, the BCWI communications efforts during the first quarter were heavily focused on our COVID-19 response and recovery strategies. Ensuring member wineries and industry were well-equipped with the tools and resources needed to navigate the rapidly evolving pandemic were a top priority for us this quarter. As well as pivoting our communications strategies to a virtual landscape to connect with our colleagues and member wineries, while engaging industry, trade and media with valuable and educational information and content safely and effectively.
Fostering Unity & Community: Response – Recovery – Resilience Together
As part of the communications strategy to deliver time-sensitive and resourceful information to keep member wineries and government updated, the BCWI implemented regular industry update webinars to review its Response – Recovery – Resilience initiatives, as well as formed a COVID-19 Task Group with Wine Growers Canada and regional wine associations with weekly meetings to share timely and relevant information to help our wineries during an uncertain time. The BCWI continued to conduct its weekly COVID-19 industry impact surveys into mid-April, at which point the survey data was aggregated and shared with industry and government upon request. 29% of member wineries participated in the surveys.
On April 2, the BCWI issued a media release announcing April BC Wine Month and the launch of the BCWI’s new dedicated ‘Winery Direct’ webpage – promoting safe ways to support and enjoy BC VQA Wine from home. Following the media release, the BCWI hosted a virtual town hall inviting special guest BC Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham, to address the industry and officially proclaim BC Wine Month.
These PR and marketing efforts helped generate 533 articles supporting and promoting BC Wine Month and BC member wineries, for a total reach of 72 million and $666,134 in unpaid national and international media coverage throughout the month of April.
“With #BCWineMonth here, and everyone sticking much closer to home, we can’t think of a better time to seek out and enjoy these wines. Support local.” – Gismondi on Wine
In anticipation of Phase 2, the BC wine industry came together to prepare for the careful reopening of wineries across the province with new health and safety protocols.
On May 14, following the direction of BC’s Restart Plan and the order of the Provincial Health Officer, the BC Wine Institute partnered with Stormy Lake Consulting to engage industry stakeholders in a constructive virtual workshop to discuss reopening guidelines, and ultimately best practices, specific to the BC wine industry. Together, and in compliance with WorkSafeBC, this input resulted in the development of a BC wine industry Ready to Reopen Toolkit providing wineries with standardized materials including best practices, key messages, templates, checklists, social media guidelines and other key resources to help ensure a smooth and safe reopening across the province.
The “Ready to Reopen Toolkit” gained positive industry feedback and made media headlines across the province promoting the safe and careful reopening of the BC wine industry.
Also, during this quarter, the BCWI secured funding from the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to develop a three-year BCWI Export Strategy. Working alongside Aurillia Consulting Ltd., a BCWI Export Strategy Task Group was created and an export survey was sent out to all BCWI member wineries to participate in for direct input into the strategy. Two virtual strategic planning meetings were conducted in the first quarter. The 2021-2023 BCWI Export Strategy is scheduled to be published in December 2020.
Executional Excellence: Connecting Virtually
Physical distancing and staying home meant many of our spring events, launches, tastings and familiarization tours were either cancelled or postponed. Early in the quarter, the BCWI quickly pivoted to a virtual landscape, exploring new ways to bring information, educational content, data and insights to our member wineries and stakeholders through new media platforms, virtual tastings and discussions.
Working with social media and online experts, the BCWI hosted four industry webinars to deliver valuable insights to member wineries on how to improve their business and sales online. Topics included: Instagram marketing; optimizing your business on Google and on the Wines of BC Explorer App, and how to drive traffic to your website through Facebook. (Webinars recordings are available at WineBC.com)
On Wednesday, April 22 & April 29 the BCWI hosted a virtual two-part webinar preview of BC’s 2019 vintage. Streaming live from the wine regions and vineyards of British Columbia – media, trade and industry were invited to join our host, Master of Wine Barbara Philip and two panels of BC winemakers from across the province as they provided an in-depth review and discussion of the 2019 vintage.
Not our traditional sit-down intimate tasting, however these virtual tastings allowed us to engage with an expanded audience of 262 media, trade and industry attendees from across the country for the first time. Attendees included wine critics: Sid Cross, Michaela Morris, Tim Pawsey, Rhys Pender MW, DJ Kearney, Joanne Sasvari and Barbara Wild from BC; Shelley Boettcher and Linda Garson from Alberta, Janet Dorozynski, David Lawrason and Sebastien LeGoff from Ontario, Craig Pinhey from New Brunswick, as well as wine directors and sommeliers from top restaurants and retailers including, Hawkesworth, Wildabeest, Cactus Club, The Guild (Calgary), 10 Acres, Cascadia Liquor, Vessel Liquor, Save-On-Foods and BC Liquor Stores.
May through June, the BCWI continued engaging media, trade, industry and consumers through a series of expert-led virtual educational tasting webinars on various BC wine topics with guest BC winemakers.
As we enter a new quarter, we will continue to connect, share, evolve and thrive as an industry as we pivot through this challenging time together.
Direct and indirect media coverage of the BC Wine Institute, its members and the Wines of British Columbia reached 143 million readers and viewers from April 1 through June 30. Value for media coverage totalled $1,330,217.
“Already, most B.C. wineries have pivoted to accommodate the new reality of the COVID-19 crisis. Your task: Buy their wine!” – Vancouver is Awesome
“Now, more than ever, it’s good to buy and support local whenever we can. Please do consider making your beverage selections local ones.” – Culinaire Magazine
Virtual proclamation of BC Wine Month with BC Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham
Vintage Media Preview Part I
Vintage Media Preview Part II
BC Wine Virtual Educational Tasting Series
At Home with Mijune Pak and BC VQA Wine Live Series
HIGHLIGHTS IN THE NEWS
Highlights in the news from April 1 through June 30:
|Citynews1130 | BC Wine Institute disappointed but not surprised by fed limiting wine sales|
|Global News | Coronavirus: B.C. wineries prepared to reopen across the province|
|Kelowna Capital News | Pandemic an opportunity for B.C. wineries to reset, reinvent|
|Vancouver Sun (Print Edition) | Nifty B.C. wine institute list brings you province’s best; Local producers need your support, are working hard to get wine to you|
|Gismondi On Wine – Blog | Top 10 : BC Reds -Well Red for BC Wine Month|
|Narcity | April Is ‘Wine Month’ In BC & 170 Wineries Will Deliver Discounted Wine To Your Door|
|The Province | Column: Celebrating B.C. Wine Month|
For the full Q1 Media Report, click here.
PRESS RELEASE ROUND-UP
To ensure the Wines of British Columbia stay top of mind in key markets and to make sure consumers and industry remain informed on issues affecting the wine industry, the BC Wine Institute regularly issues press releases to a group of more than 300 national and international media.
You can find all press releases issued in Q1 in the Media section of WineBC.com.
BC Wine Direct
The BC Wine Direct webpage was created in response to COVID-19, and lists member winery shipping and wine promotions. It was launched in late March and saw overnight success. BC Wine Direct immediately went to the number one page on WineBC.com with almost four minutes spent on the page on average. BC Wine Direct has been successful in reaching consumers across the country. The top provinces reached were British Columbia and Alberta followed by Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
BC Wine Direct reached more than 434,000 consumers through its digital efforts including boosted and organic posts, carousels and Google ads. It was a pivotal tool towards keeping our industry growing strong.
Working Together / Wine It Forward BC
The Working Together webpage was also created in response to COVID-19. The webpage launched in late March as a place consumers could go to find information on how to support wineries, retail and restaurants. Consumers could also learn more about BC wine with videos and links to educational materials.
As the situation changed so did the webpage and it was ultimately renamed Wine It Forward BC with a look toward the brighter future, including an uplifting video of a community working together with a nod to the 30th anniversary of BC VQA.
This was largely a digital campaign with new assets that supported wineries and retail. It also included billboards and an ad in Culinaire Magazine.
From late March until early June Working Together and Wine It Forward remained in the top two webpages on WineBC.com. Consumers on average stayed on the page for more than two minutes and often left to visit BC Wine Direct. This campaign digitally reached more than 951,000 consumers looking for more information on BC wines including social posts, videos and Google ads.
Boutique Wines from BC / Wine Enthusiast
Boutique Wines from BC (originally titled Wine Enthusiast) is a program in partnership with the BC Liquor Stores to get smaller lot wines into the stores and to consumers. BC Liquor Stores listed an additional 18 wines in May and June with more listed in July and August. We supported the program with in-store signage, digital promotions and with At Home with Mijune Pak, a competition on Instagram live where local sommeliers compete each week in a speed blind taste test. The blind taste test resulted in excellent exposure of the Boutique Wines from BC program to both sommeliers and consumers. Through our digital promotions we were able to reach 383,000 consumers in May and June.
As part of a virtual tasting series where sommeliers select BC wines and host a webinar with an educational focus, we created complementary materials, including neck tags titled “Somm Selects”. The neck tags encouraged consumers to try new BC wines and go behind the scenes to learn more about the wines from the winemakers and wine experts as they taste them.
As the world constantly evolved so did our marketing strategies and along with that new assets were required. We did three new photo shoots. The first set of photos focused on wine at home and wine delivery. The next set was taken to show the new winery experience and was combined with a Father’s Day shoot. The Father’s Day pictures were used for posters in Save-On-Foods and a blog highlighting several BC wine dads.
During the first quarter, the Wines of British Columbia social media and digital marketing channels increased in volume and content, pivoting hard to focus on consumer sales of BC wine while at the same time ramping up industry COVID-19 updates and resources for members, media and trade, to support the health and well-being of the BC wine industry.
Adding to the digital communications marketing mix, BCWI launched virtual education tasting events alongside a series of industry webinars which became a critical new component during the COVID-19 quarantine. The digital focus on webinars facilitated delivery of critical information updates while keeping trade and media engaged on news about the 2019 BC wine vintage.
Online social media campaigns and digital advertising became more important and more competitive than ever as BCWI’s channels acknowledged and responded to COVID-19. Combining a strong working together message with a new updated member-focused Direct-to-Consumer page, with video and support for BC restaurants, use of influencer marketing, and a suite of branded visuals with clear calls to action, worked to get us through a challenging quarter.
Throughout Q1, Wines of British Columbia developed and shared more than 923 pieces of digital marketing content across seven social media channels targeted to consumers and industry.
- A total of four campaigns focused on Working Together, BC Wine Direct sales combined with video ads, and the Best of BC Restaurant support together generated 24, 401 clicks, 2, 714 engagements, 237,217 video/page views, and a reach of 1,518,882. See report findings here.
- Influencer marketing campaigns for Q1 brought together:
- Partnership with Jillian Harris and Fraiche Living Tori Wesszer who donated posts during COVID-19 quarantine promoting a targeted Buy BC wine message in return for a BCWI donation to the local food bank.
- Mijune Pak Instagram Live BC Wine Enthusiast Speed-Blind Wine Tasting Series 1. Estimated media value $134.3K. Reach 117K, 1.5K engagement and 87 posts. See Klear Report
- 30 Year Anniversary BC VQA Wine Giveaway from Save-On-Foods with professional nutritionist and author Tori Wesszer of Fraiche Living. Social media reach 160.3K, engagement 6.3K, 6 posts and estimated media value $94.4K Klear Report. Sponsored Fraiche Living blog captured 10,750 giveaway entries and 10, 548 views to the Wines of British Columbia calls to action. See report.
- A total of 7,801 blog views were earned throughout Q1. Six new articles were posted to WineBC.com’s Taste and Terroir blog earning more than 1,200 views. Topics included: Father’s Day, 30 Year Anniversary COVID-19 feature and virtual education tasting narratives.
- The BCWI presented a COVID-19 Update II with BC Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham and BCWI Executives. A total of 86 participants and 127 replays of the webinar were earned on BCWI’s YouTube.
- BCWI partnered with Facebook advertising expert Amanda Robinson to present a digital marketing webinar and member “How-To Guide” on using the Facebook advertising platform to sell BC wine direct-to-consumer. A total of 75 attended, with 147 replaying the webinar that is located here.
- Contributing to the BCWI Ready to Reopen Toolkit, developed and authored a COVID-19 Social Media Guide alongside scenario-based key messages to assist members with social marketing communications.
- A new YouTube playlist dedicated to BCWI Webinar Executive Updates was created combining timely updates on COVID-19 pandemic and other priority member communications. BCWI members can locate the playlist here.
- The new YouTube playlist with Digital Marketing Training webinars was updated with a suite of new resources for members. Webinars can be found here.
For top posts and a summary report of Q1 social media analytics, click here.
BC Wine Institute Annual General Meeting
The BC Wine Institute Annual General Meeting will take place September 1, 2020 from 10 AM to 11 AM. In compliance with the BC Centre for Disease Control’s public health order to limit all public gatherings larger than 50 people, the BC Wine Institute will hold its 2020 Annual General Meeting virtually. Meeting instructions will be available on WineBC.com advance of the meeting. Following the meeting, the BCWI will announce and welcome the new Board of Directors. Learn More.
Q1 Wine Competition Results
Each year, BC VQA Wine and certified 100% BC grape wine are entered into dozens of wine competitions where they show extremely well. BC VQA Wine winners are tracked. A total of 35 awards were received in Q1. See full results here.