Nova Scotia wine association puts a cork in marketing plans
Cash crunch in boom times
After years of growth, the association representing Nova Scotia wineries has been forced to put a cork in its promotional campaigns — one of several cost saving measures that are part of a restructuring plan.
"We've regrouped," said Stewart Creaser, president of the Winery Association of Nova Scotia.
"We did a lot of aggressive marketing activity over the last few years and we'll have to be more conservative about that also until we get to a point in growth where we have more revenue."
Creaser said the group did not raise enough money from its 11 member wineries to pay for its promotion and is revamping its levy system to bring in more money.
Last year, the association got rid of its full time CEO and is currently using Acadia University as a temporary address. The university's Atlantic Wine Institute is also lending administrative help.
For the past year, the association has been unable to participate in cost shared programs with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
"In the last couple of years it got ahead of us. We needed to stop and catch up," said Creaser.
The association is using its financial problems to refocus on less glamorous issues including quality control, government relations, increasing scale and ensuring an adequate supply of grapes.
"If you look at Ontario 10, 15 years ago, and British Columbia — same thing. They were then, where we are now. If you look at what they did to get to where they are today we're trying to do the same things," said Creaser.
Nova Scotia's Agriculture Minister calls the restructuring a "bump in the road."
"Our industry is now ready to explode. It's gone from a cottage industry to a true industry," Keith Colwell told CBC News.
"We're on the edge of doing that right now and this reorganization, I feel, is part of that."
With nearly 400 hectares under cultivation, Nova Scotia's wine industry is tiny by international standards — although it is racking up big gains in the province. Nova Scotians, at least, have crossed the critical perception gap that local wineries can produce drinkable wines.
"We actually sell out of every bit of Nova Scotia wine we can get our hands on. The challenge for us is actually getting more," said Mike Maloney, a spokesman for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.
The Crown corporation sold more than 74,000 cases of Nova Scotia wine last year, representing more than seven per cent of total wine sales and outselling Chile, Argentina and even France.
"Sometimes you reach points where the growth potential is greater than the revenue to promote it. That's where we are right now, really. It's a short-term issue," said Creaser, the co-owner and operator of Avondale Sky Winery.
"In the next four to five years, we can double and double again — provided we focus on quality product and scale, getting various government departments to act in a co-ordinated way to grow the industry in a way that will be sustainable in the long term."
The Winery Association of Nova Scotia intends to hire an external chair by this summer.