With the international wine industry constantly changing, wineries in British Columbia are facing tougher competition at home and abroad.
These challenging times require adaptation to new practices, understanding of new trends and markets and repositioning of the industry.
Jacques-Olivier Pesme, director of the Wine and Spirits Management Academy at KEDGE Business School in Bordeaux, France, says the B.C. wine industry will face many more challenges in the years to come.
Pesme, who is a specialist in international business and sustainable competitiveness and a world-leading academic authority on the business of wine, works directly with UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Management. With nearly 300 wineries in British Columbia, tough international competition and new changes to provincial liquor licencing laws, Pesme says the sustainability of this popular industry is being challenged.
“The wine industry is truly a global market and the local situation can’t continue as it is because the competition, whether it’s local or international, is fierce,” said Pesme.
This summer, as part of an innovative partnership between the University of British Columbia and B.C.’s wine industry, UBC received $630,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada to help strengthen cooperation in the industry, enhance export readiness and develop its global identity.
The funding is to help establish task forces on wine labeling and presentation and on the industry’s identity; provide analysis of intelligence from international trade shows; help identify and assess options for organization, modeled from other advanced wine regions in the world; and to help develop online tools to strengthen collaboration and industry knowledge.
Deborah Buszard, UBC deputy vice-chancellor and principal of the Okanagan campus, says universities have a fundamental role to play in driving economic development.
“Working with the B.C. wine industry, UBC will serve as a convener for the sector and international experts to come together to create an expanded, globally competitive wine region,” said Buszard.
Pesme is one such expert. He promotes collaboration between local wineries and the notion of ‘identity’ as pillars of success, key to the viability of the industry.
“The industry has to ask ‘what does the idea of the British Columbia wine region mean?’ Can all these people work together to create a commercial message that describes our wine region and the signature of our wines?” he said.
“To be competitive on the international market, this region’s wineries need to have a firm identity. And the region needs to have the ability to launch itself successfully internationally.”
Wine regions have specific identities and he says the Okanagan wineries need to come up with an identity that they all share and then promote the entire area and its products.
“The industry does exist and we have the players—the big, the medium and the small. We also have professional institutions. Apart from few exceptions, I don’t think the local wineries are ready to position themselves on the international market and become international players,” said Pesme.
“The potential is here, clearly. Some additional work is required to intensify the collaboration amongst B.C. players.
“The world of wine imposes, at first, a collective approach and it offers many opportunities as the wine industry is truly a global market that needs to be explored.”
Roger Sugden, dean of the UBCO Faculty of Management, says connecting regional wineries and wine makers with experts from around the world to assist with the growth is part of the faculty’s commitment to community engagement.
“The presence of UBC and KEDGE as impartial allies to the local wine industry creates a new avenue for territory-wide growth, as values, standards and collective strategies can be coordinated and developed for the benefit of all wineries in the region,” said Sugden.
Pesme will be back in November to help facilitate the Wine Industry Collaborative, being hosted at UBCO on Nov. 2 and 3.
Before the event, UBCO and KEDGE will conduct a survey of the industry on wine labeling and the preliminary results will be discussed at the collaborative.