Southbrook Farms and Winery proves its worth abroad

Everyone's heard the clichés before. 'We're living today in a world without borders.' 'There is no such thing as a Canadian company anymore.' 'The whole world is our marketplace now.' But what, exactly, does all of this mean in terms of...

Everyone’s heard the clichés before.

‘We’re living today in a world without borders.’ ‘There is no such thing as a Canadian company anymore.’ ‘The whole world is our marketplace now.’

But what, exactly, does all of this mean in terms of concrete, day-to-day reality? What do Canadian firms go through in the effort to market their products and services internationally? How do they build brands on a global basis? What are the challenges – and the rewards?

For this special report, Strategy’s writers profile the global marketing activities of several noteworthy Canadian companies.

Bill Redelmeier wanted to sell his wine to Canadians. So naturally, he launched it in the U.K.

Canadians need to see a homegrown product receive validation abroad before they’ll give it serious consideration, says Redelmeier, co-owner and export director of Maple, Ont.-based Southbrook Farms and Winery. So the best way to get Canadians to drink Canadian wine is to export it – particularly to a wine-savvy market like Great Britain.

‘One of the [most convincing ways to prove] that Canadian wine is good is to show an English magazine to the Canadian public and say, ‘They love us in England.’ By selling Canadian wines in Britain, we get the halo effect.’

Founded in 1992, the Southbrook winery today is Ontario’s leading exporter of wines to Britain, selling approximately one-third of its dessert fruit wines to U.K. consumers. What’s more, its products – which include raspberry, golden raspberry, blackcurrant and blueberry wines – have claimed a number of international awards. And in 1996, Southbrook’s raspberry wine became the first Ontario wine ever to be carried by the prestigious English department store, Harrods.

Not bad for a bunch of folks who more or less fell into the wine-making business. Initially a dairy farm with a sideline in fruit and produce, Southbrook decided to branch into fruit wines when the unseasonably damp summer of 1992 left them with an oversupply of raspberries.

While Britain remains Southbrook’s primary international market, Redelmeier says it’s now mature enough for the winery to begin focusing on other territories. In addition to the U.K., Southbrook exports to the U.S., Bermuda and Taiwan, and has recently begun expansion into other Far East markets.

Southbrook will establish its brand in these new markets the same way it did in Britain – by taking part in key trade and consumer shows (Redelmeier already has three trips to Asia booked between now and June), and by launching aggressive public relations efforts. While the company maintains a Web site (, it has traditionally done very little advertising, aside from the occasional piece in food and wine magazines. As a marketing vehicle, Redelmeier says, sampling at retail stores and shows is far more effective for Southbrook’s purposes.

‘It’s key to establish that first trial,’ he says. ‘We find advertising [brings the brand] to the front of mind, but it doesn’t establish trial.’

Southbrook does not operate offices outside of Canada, preferring instead to sign on local ‘agents’ to handle sales in each of the markets to which it exports.

The current push into the Far East promises to be an interesting, if challenging one. Redelmeier expects Southbrook’s products to do well in Japan, where fruit wines have been consumed for hundreds of years. He is less certain, however, about the Chinese market, which has had much less exposure to the product category. There is also the concern that, in markets such as Mainland China, Singapore and Indonesia, counterfeit Canadian products will begin to appear and steal share – a problem that Redelmeier says has plagued Canadian exporters of ice wines in the past.

New markets also bring striking differences in product preference. In Canada, for example, Southbrook’s blackcurrant wine accounts for just 15% of sales, but in the U.K. its share is closer to 40%. Redelmeier, for one, is betting that the blueberry wine will do well in Japan, since Japanese folklore holds that blueberries improve the eyesight.

Also in this report:

- Tim Hortons issues wakeup call: Builds underdeveloped breakfast category p.25

- Faces adapts to local market: Cosmetics retailer leverages awareness of cultural differences p.25

- Honeydew pegs future on U.S. sales p.26

- Buckley’s takes bad taste message abroad: Cough syrup marketer making steady inroads in U.S. and overseas p.27

- Great Canadian Bagel makes slow but sure gains in Moscow p.27

- Seagull Pewter sells at shows: Family-run giftware operation does business in over 20 territories p.28

- Clearly Canadian launches in U.S. first p.28

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.