Al­co­hol bro­ker part­ners with Aphria to get ‘feet on the street’ for pot


The Cana­dian arm of al­co­hol dis­trib­u­tor South­ern Glazer’s Wine & Spir­its LLC is en­ter­ing the cannabis mar­ket by launch­ing a marijuana-fo­cused bro­ker and part­ner­ing with li­censed pro­ducer Aphria Inc.

The new com­pany, Great North Dis­trib­u­tors Inc., will rep­re­sent Aphria prod­ucts to re­tail­ers and reg­u­la­tors across the coun­try, essen­tially act­ing as Aphria’s on-the-spot sales­force, the com­pany said on Thurs­day. “We’re go­ing to be able to take a lot of the ex­pe­ri­ence we have from the bev­er­age al­co­hol mar­ket and trans­late it to the cannabis mar­ket,” said Doug Wieland, gen­eral man­ager of South­ern Glazer’s Cana­dian divi­sion. South­ern Glazer’s, the largest wine and spir­its dis­trib­u­tor in the U.S., is al­ready a ma­jor player in the Cana­dian al­co­hol mar­ket, rep­re­sent­ing brands such as Bac­ardi, Rémy Coin­treau and Tito’s Vodka in both pri­vate and gov­ern­men­trun liquor stores. “We be­lieve there’s go­ing to be a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties (to al­co­hol) with both gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment, and the way the prod­uct will be re­tailed through those gov­ern­ment bod­ies,” Wieland said. The part­ner­ship comes at a time when Cana­dian cannabis com­pa­nies are start­ing to fo­cus on re­tail strate­gies for the adult recre­ational mar­ket, which is ex­pected to be­come le­gal some­time later this year. Much of the in­dus­try ’s ac­tiv­ity so far has fo­cused on cul­ti­va­tion: build­ing fa­cil­i­ties and get­ting pro­duc­tion costs down. But prof­its will ul­ti­mately de­pend on get­ting marijuana on store shelves and cre­at­ing brand recog­ni­tion and loy­alty. That’s led Canopy Growth Corp. to de­velop plans for its own re­tail store chain called Tweed Main Street (for prov­inces that will al­low pri­vate re­tail), and Aurora Cannabis Inc. to buy a 20-per-cent stake in Al­berta liquor store chain Liquor Stores NA, which re­cently changed its name to Al­canna. “Whether it’s peo­ple choos­ing their own route to mar­ket or whether they choose an agency model, we be­lieve the feet on the street are go­ing to be key to the suc­cess of cannabis,” Wieland said.

Great North will ini­tially have a team of 21 peo­ple. It will work with pri­vate and gov­ern­ment-owned re­tail­ers to en­sure Aphria brands get prime shelf and dis­play space, as well as pro­vide con­sumer data.

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