Develop New Markets

Partner with Local Manufacturers

Main photo courtesy of Medicine Hat Brewing

Combine the rapid growth of local breweries in Alberta with ongoing product innovation and rising consumer interest in craft products, and you have a unique opportunity for liquor retailers to grow their businesses.

Retailers are developing new markets by partnering with local manufacturers to offer self-guided consumer tours. With over 130 breweries, wineries, meaderies, cideries, and distilleries in the province, there are plenty of opportunities to do so!

Rise of Craft Beer and Culinary Tourism

Craft brewery, distillery, meadery, cidery, and other on-site tours are not a new thing in Alberta. Given the resurgence of Alberta’s tourism and its growing culinary tourism sector, it’s no surprise that manufacturers are tapping into this tourism and marketing opportunity.

Tours give you the opportunity to share your unique story, differentiate your store, and stay ahead of the competition.

According to the Travel Alberta 2017-18 Annual Report, the province saw its highest-ever visitation numbers in 2016. The visitor economy is now valued at $8.5 billion—reflecting an all-time record—with goals to surpass $10 billion in tourism revenue by 2020. Visitor spending on food and beverage in Alberta accounts for almost 30% of all tourism expenditures in the province.

Tourism organizations are already working with craft producers to establish self-guided consumer tours with both the domestic and international tourist in mind. Now is the time for liquor retailers to get in on this opportunity too.

For instance, Travel Alberta created its Northern and Southern Alberta Beer Trails: multi-day self-guided road trips highlighting craft breweries and other producers in the province. On the local level, Tourism Calgary worked with breweries to create the Calgary Beer Map. Similarly, Tourism Medicine Hat has partnered with various manufacturers, including the Medicine Hat Brewing Company, to organize self-guided tours in the area.

There is also no shortage of breweries and other craft producers in rural Alberta and the Rockies. See the previous two issues of Liquor Retailer for an Alberta Rockies Beer Tour and the Ultimate Southern Alberta Beer Tour.

Why Partner with Manufacturers in New Ways?

Courtesy of Crossroads Liquor Store

It is common practice for retailers to host in-store tastings and manufacturers to offer public tours, but both parties generally work independently, versus partnering on tours and events. Yet, by establishing new partnerships with manufacturers, numerous benefits await.

Burwood Distillery in Calgary is already experiencing success doing this. “We have partnered with several liquor stores,” says General Manager Cory Gaudette. “It is the largest way that we sell and move our products.” He encourages other manufacturers and stores to do the same: “I believe that anytime you can have two local businesses partner together to educate the public on the services they both offer, it is very effective. We very much value our local liquor retailers.”

Developing new markets isn’t the only reason to partner with manufacturers. Tours give you the opportunity to share your unique story, differentiate your store, and stay ahead of the competition.

Tours have been essential to Origin Malting’s success. “We offer public tours and promote this very heavily,” says Operations Manager Kyle Geeraert. “We have a different story than the majority of breweries in the world—our malt house is in the same building—and tours give us the chance to tell it.”

By partnering with manufacturers and hosting tours, you can also highlight specific producers, increasing exposure to the products, your store, and sales.

Lesley Fillion, General Manager, Rocky Mountain Liquor Store, believes the more exposure you have to anything, the better. “When a new product launches or a new manufacturer opens, we all try to help them,” says Fillion. “We’ll promote the product within our store. When there is more exposure to a product, more people see it, and then buy it.”

Consumers are craving locally-made, unique products. Local manufacturers can fill this niche and tours can help educate customers—again helping drive sales. “People typically buy products when they understand and know where it comes from,” describes Geeraert.

Everyone benefits with promotion and collaboration.

Crossroads Liquor Store Owner Jason Reynolds agrees. “People are more open and looking for local and new products—products they aren’t necessarily used to or have grown up with. Consumers are definitely exploring more now. That is what I am seeing in my store—people coming in and asking for recommendations for something different.”

Partnering with manufacturers can also help you tap into the rapid growth of craft products. Reynolds recognized the growth of the craft beer industry and is renovating his store to take advantage of it. “We’re currently renovating the store so we can really focus on craft products,” he explains. “We’re making better use of the space to increase our selection of craft beers, whiskeys, and distilled products. There are new manufacturers popping up all the time!”

Courtesy of Canmore Brewing

How You Can Get Started

Find an existing craft beer or other manufacturer trail in your area and reach out to the producers on the list. Many are excited by the opportunity to collaborate and partner with retailers. “Everyone benefits with promotion and collaboration, so the more [partnerships] the better. And craft continues to grow, so promoting local is win-win,” says Brian Dunn, President and Founder of the Canmore Brewing Company.

Reynolds suggests looking at how manufacturers are already working together in your area and exploring how you can fit your retail store in as a destination on the tour. He also encourages retailers to think of logistics and consider time, money, and return on investment when planning and hosting consumer tours.

You can also try reaching out to your regional tourism association for support and more information.

Tips for Working Effectively with Manufacturers

Are you ready to start working with manufacturers on consumer tours? Here are some tips for working effectively with your local producers:
1. Regular communication: Medicine Hat Brewing Company General Manager Kaiden Vancuren says successful partnerships rely on regular communication and responding to all emails, even if the answer is no.

2. Help each other in mutually beneficial ways: Consider how you can help each other. Gaudette believes it is key for both parties to mutually benefit. Vancuren also encourages co-sponsoring events.

3. Bring your strengths to the relationship: By utilizing the unique services that each business offers, Gaudette says you can help ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial.

4. Focus on staff and consumer education: Geeraert believes consumer and staff education is key to ensuring successful tours and driving sales. Burwood Distillery also focuses on education. Gaudette says they regularly host liquor retail staff at the distillery for tours and product information sessions.