The Irish spirits expo took place as part of the mission led by Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, in association with Bord Bia, with the aim of promoting Irish food and drinks products there.
The mission followed the recent Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada which has resulted in tariff-elimination for both cream liqueur and gin and has removed a number of ‘behind the border’ trade restrictions that previously acted as barriers to market access.
The Irish Spirits Association joined Carolans and Terra among the visiting Irish cream liqueur companies while Blackwater, Glendalough and Listoke gins represented the Irish gin side.
Prior to the start of the mission, a delegation from the Irish Spirits Association and the Irish Whiskey Association, led by William Lavelle, Head of both, held a bilateral meeting with a delegation from Spirits Canada led by President Jan Westcott. The delegation also included representatives from Walsh Whiskey Distillery, Chapelgate Whiskey and Listoke Gin Distillery.
In April the Irish Spirits Association will publish the first-ever Irish Gin Strategy which will identify Canada as one of the top five target markets for future export growth.
The CETA agreement contains protection for EU-recognised Geographic Indications. Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur are protected at an EU level in a similar manner to Champagne in France or Parma hams in Italy. This means that these GI spirits must be produced on the island of Ireland in accordance with certain production practices and standards.
The ISA also used the visit to Toronto to publicise the Love Irish Cream Liqueur campaign which aims to protect and promote the Irish Cream Liqueur GI. The Association highlighted concerns over alleged infringements in terms of the required production practices and standards (the GI) by cream liqueur products on sale in some areas of Canada.
Canada represents one of Irish whiskey’s fastest-growing export markets. CSO figures for the first 10 months of 2017 show that the value of exports to Canada increased by 20.5%. However only 6% of Irish whiskey currently on sale in Canada is from premium brands indicating a significant opportunity for Irish whiskey producers to grow the sale of premium brands in Canada.
“The CETA deal has eliminated tariffs and opened up new opportunities for Ireland’s spirits industry in Canada, which has a large Irish diaspora population,” pointed out ISA Head William Lavelle, “Irish whiskey is already seeing double-digit export growth to Canada. We see the potential for premium, authentic Irish whiskey brands to prosper in the Canadian market.”
In all, 17 Irish whiskey companies either participated in the trade mission or were represented at the showcase drinks event organised in conjunction with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.