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Southern Glazer’s Eyes Growth In Canada’s Cannabis Market

February 12, 2019

The vast potential of recreational cannabis has sparked considerable interest within the drinks industry, with suppliers and distributors making a number of major moves in the market. Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the U.S. market’s largest spirits and wine wholesaler with revenues of $18 billion, was among the first drinks companies to enter the legal recreational market in Canada, partnering with cannabis producer Aphria last year.

Southern Glazer’s inked its deal with Aphria last May and formed a separate unit, Great North Distributors, to serve as the exclusive broker for Aphria’s brands across Canada. Aphria, whose president is former Diageo North America CFO Jakob Ripshtein, has a portfolio that includes labels like Solei, Broken Coast, Riff, Good Supply, and Goodfields, each targeted to different consumer demographics, from novices to experienced users.

Doug Wieland, executive vice president and general manager of Southern Glazer’s Canada, tells SND that entering the cannabis space was a multi-year process for the distribution giant. “We started looking at cannabis about two and a half years ago, meeting with all of the top companies in the space. From those talks we decided that the best partner for us would be Aphria, which is the best low-cost producer of cannabis in Canada,” says Wieland. “Our cannabis division is separate from the beverage alcohol business, but a lot of skills are transferable, like our retail execution, route-to-market, and analytics. We’ve been able to take our beverage alcohol platform and apply that to the cannabis world.”

The vast potential of recreational cannabis has sparked considerable interest within the drinks industry, with suppliers and distributors making a number of major moves in the market. Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the U.S. market’s largest spirits and wine wholesaler with revenues of $18 billion, was among the first drinks companies to enter the legal recreational market in Canada, partnering with cannabis producer Aphria last year.

Southern Glazer’s inked its deal with Aphria last May and formed a separate unit, Great North Distributors, to serve as the exclusive broker for Aphria’s brands across Canada. Aphria, whose president is former Diageo North America CFO Jakob Ripshtein, has a portfolio that includes labels like Solei, Broken Coast, Riff, Good Supply, and Goodfields, each targeted to different consumer demographics, from novices to experienced users.

Doug Wieland, executive vice president and general manager of Southern Glazer’s Canada, tells SND that entering the cannabis space was a multi-year process for the distribution giant. “We started looking at cannabis about two and a half years ago, meeting with all of the top companies in the space. From those talks we decided that the best partner for us would be Aphria, which is the best low-cost producer of cannabis in Canada,” says Wieland. “Our cannabis division is separate from the beverage alcohol business, but a lot of skills are transferable, like our retail execution, route-to-market, and analytics. We’ve been able to take our beverage alcohol platform and apply that to the cannabis world.”—Daniel Marsteller & Mary Keefe

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