Living/Working June 16, 2017

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Richmond berry winery cultivates Chinese market

Canada Berries looks to carve out niche amid growing Asian interest in B.C. wineries
Tom Yuan, founder and director for Richmond-based Canada Berries Enterprises Ltd., with the entire Canada Berries team at its Richmond winery | Chuck Chiang

The robust sales of B.C. wine to consumers in the Chinese-speaking world has led to some Chinese-Canadians skipping the proverbial middleman and going directly to the source – by purchasing local vineyards and trying to target specialized markets.

That was the strategy of Tom Yuan, founder and director for Richmond-based Canada Berries Enterprises Ltd. Yuan, who bought the winery’s 10-acre Richmond vineyard four years ago, said he made the purchase specifically because the farm, located on Blundell Road near Westminster Highway, was one of a select few that produce wine from berries rather than from grapes, the conventional source.

Yuan said he thinks berry wines – a rarity in both Chinese and western markets – would give his winery a niche that he can then expand upon as a “blue ocean” market free of competitors.

“Wine culture has not been around in the Asian mainstream consciousness for a long time, unlike the deep-rooted history it has in western culture,” Yuan said. “With berries, the awareness is even lower. So the initial market is guaranteed to be limited. But because it’s a niche market, with no one else doing what we do, it gives us a chance to create a new product category.”

The Chinese market remains a key one for B.C. wineries. According to the B.C. agri-food export overview for 2015, China was the top market for the $9 million local wine export sector. For Canadian wines overall, China remains a strong second-place finisher, with shipments in 2016 valued at $15.7 million – 19.6% of total exports.

Allison Boulton,  an independent international business consultant with 15 years of experience in the wine industry, said Chinese interest in local wineries, whether from partial investors or from those looking for full ownership, has been rising for a few years now.

“If you sat down and went down the list, you can find half a dozen wineries owned, partially owned, or are talking to Chinese investors for a partial or full buy,” said Boulton, who recently moved back to Vancouver from China. “It’s a business play; you are controlling your supply chain.”

Boulton added that wineries represent a “sexy” and “prestigious” industry that can be very attractive to Chinese and Chinese-Canadian investors, further adding to the allure of buying and operating a B.C. winery.

What could be a key selling point for Canada Berries’ berry wine, Yuan said, is the growing health consciousness of consumers. Blueberries, cranberries and blackberries are all known for high levels of antioxidants, and Canadian berries already enjoy a positive reputation in the Chinese market.

Wine, Yuan noted, is also regarded as a health product in China. So the combination of using berries for wine has a high chance of engaging health-conscious consumers in the Chinese-speaking world who are looking for an alternative to grape-based wines.

“If you look at the traditional character for the word ‘doctor’ or ‘medical studies,’ the bottom of the character incorporates the character for ‘alcohol’ or ‘wine,’” Yuan said. “So it shows the use of medicinal wines in traditional Chinese medicine and the image of wine’s healthy nature in 5,000 years of Chinese history. What we want to do is to bring an even better product to that market.”

Boulton agrees there is likely a market for berry wine in China, noting that “the market is so big that you are going to find some buyers.” But she also said a targeted approach like that of Canadian Berries  makes sense because China’s myriad rules and regulations, along with a plethora of competitors and fast-changing market landscapes, make it challenging for anyone looking to enter.

“As is everything with the Chinese market, it’s a long-term play,” she said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. … Choose to go because it’s the right thing for you, for your brand, for your values, for your production capability, for your style of wine. Make sure you choose it with your business mind.”

That’s why, Yuan said, Canada Berries is also reaching out to other berry-wine makers in B.C., in an attempt to create a unified brand for Canadian products looking to enter the Asian market together.

cchiang@biv.com

@BIVnews

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Infographic: Elon Musk's resume of failures

Elon Musk has an impressive list of successes, but things haven't always gone so smoothly for the billionaire.

Infographic source: Visual Capitalist

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Last-minute Father’s Day gifts

Five finds he’ll love
Photo: Gain Dealer Group photo

With Father’s Day just around the corner (June 18), the focus is on finding a gift for Dad that will make him feel celebrated. Gone are the days of the standard socks and ties – the modern dad is multi-faceted, and scoring a home-run gift is all about knowing his interests. Whether your big papa is an art aficionado, a thrill seeker or a stylish homebody, we’ve found our five fave father-worthy gifts that are sure to please.

1. Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit Package at Villa Eyrie Resort; villaeyrie.com. $1,695.
Let Dad feel like a motorsport superstar for a day with the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit Package from Villa Eyrie. This experience includes a one-night getaway stay for two in the Superior Suite at Villa Eyrie, dining at the Summit restaurant by award-winning executive chef Terry Pichor, and a personalized performance driving experience for an entire day. Villa Eyrie is a Lake Como-inspired resort nestled into the curves of the Malahat, overlooking the stunning views of the Saanich Inlet. When Dad’s not experiencing a day in the life of a race car driver, he can take some time to brush up on his golf game at the resort’s links, and relax and unwind with some of the Island’s finest wines. This is one Father’s Day gift he won’t soon forget!

2. Decorative ox head wall sculpture; available at The Cross Decor & Design, 1198 Homer St. $325.
For the dad who appreciates style at home, we’ve found the ultimate art piece to add to his collection. Grand in size and presence – it measures three feet in diameter! – this ox head sculpture gives a minimalist nod to the traditional hunting trophy. Modern and with a cruelty-free conscious, this 100 per cent poly-resin piece is finished in a bleached white to complete the sleek, streamlined aesthetic. Whether wall-mounted or used as a statement piece for tabletop décor, this sculpture is the perfect balance of manly-meets-modern.

3. Tera Gear 12K BTU Stainless Steel Tabletop Grill; available at The Real Canadian Superstore. $149.
For the King of the Grill in your family, the Tera Gear Tabletop Grill is a gift that will keep Dad smiling all summer long. Small in stature but big on performance, this stainless steel portable grill makes a great addition to any party, from the backyard to the beach. Boasting 12,000 BTUs of grill power and a generous surface size for a mobile barbecue, Dad is sure to enjoy showing off his skills, be it an intimate family affair or the soirée of the season.

4. Top Shelf Bar accessories set with stand; available at CB2, 1277 Robson St. $74.95.
If Dad’s alter ego is Mr. Entertainer, the Top Shelf bar set from CB2 is a definite winner. Including everything he might need for mixing the perfect cocktail, this bar tool set comes housed in a slim-profile, high-impact gilded stand. Whether Dad likes it shaken, stirred, muddled, or anything in between, this set has all his ‘bar master’ needs covered.

Source: Tracey Ayton photo

5. Oscar Maschera leather storage box; available at Provide Home, 1805 Fir Street. $265.
Ahh, the age-old dilemma for most men: where to drop their pocket contents when they walk in the door? If finding a convenient yet visually acceptable place to leave keys, coins and other such man-goods has remained unsolved until now, check out Oscar Maschera’s collection of high-quality leather boxes. They come in a variety of sizes to provide the perfect hideaway for all of Dad’s items. Made with genuine Italian leather and tanned exclusively with vegetable extracts (read: no harmful chemicals used here), these boxes exude a refined glamour that even Mom won’t mind leaving out on display. 

Westender

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Green economy needs to cultivate builders, not just innovators

We are on the verge of another pivotal moment in Canada’s infrastructure history – one that will reshape our economy. But we need next-generation talent to build that infrastructure.

Canada’s economy is inextricably linked to our infrastructure, and it’s always been so. Our nation and its economy would have developed very differently were it not for the construction of a transcontinental railway just 14 years after Confederation in 1867.

On the eve of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the country and the economy look vastly different than they did in 1881, when the first trains rolled from Montreal to British Columbia.

What is similar today is the impact an infrastructure shift will have on our economy. This time, it’s not the agrarian economy but the innovation economy that will create wealth for all.

The federal government has dedicated nearly $190 billion over the next 10 years to its new infrastructure plan, with priorities centred on communities and transportation.

The plan also sets out to harness new and emerging technologies to make Canada cleaner, greener and smarter.

Within the innovation agenda we hear the consistent message that we need to support the people who innovate. The message needs to be the same for developing Canada’s infrastructure talent, because just as it’s people who innovate, it’s also people who build.

So where will Canada’s next-generation infrastructure talent come from?

If the focus is on infrastructure that’s clean, green and smart, much of that talent is already being developed at Canada’s polytechnics, colleges and institutes of technology.

Across Canada, polytechnic institutes are training the next generation of green-collar workers with a hands-on model of education.

In Alberta, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is building the talent that will maintain Canada’s clean transportation infrastructure. Partnering with Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and BYD Co. Ltd., a leader in battery technology and zero-emissions, NAIT will deliver world-class training for certifications in the maintenance of heavy-duty electric vehicles.

As Canada’s energy priorities shift, Alberta is leading the way to ensure it has the workforce capable of implementing innovative solutions.

In Ottawa, Algonquin College is training tradespeople for the green economy in the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence – a sustainable, highly energy-efficient living lab, complete with green roof, 22-metre-high biofilter living wall and a Platinum certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). What better way to learn green than to live green?

In Vancouver, the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Smart Microgrid is revolutionizing the way clean energy is delivered. Incorporating renewable energy sources such as wind and photovoltaic solar, it’s a small-scale version of a traditional electricity system deployable in a range of locations. It has sparked its own research program, in partnership with government and industry, that’s testing and verifying the technologies and regulations required for Canada’s future smart grid.

Although Canada looks like a very different country today than it did in 1867, high-quality infrastructure that serves the needs of the people is still the nation’s backbone. That backbone is certainly more than the steel tracks, iron spikes and wooden ties we started with.

Zero-emissions vehicles, green and energy-efficient buildings and innovations in off-the-grid delivery of energy are necessary for Canada to succeed in the new global economy, in the same ways it succeeded for the previous 150 years.

A 21st-century economy requires the support of 21st-century infrastructure, and Canada’s polytechnics are delivering the talent to build it. 

Nobina Robinson is chief executive officer of Polytechnics Canada, a national alliance of Canada’s leading polytechnics and colleges. Dr. Glenn Feltham is president and CEO of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

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B.C. still booming despite world’s new slow-growth reality

In the wake of the 2008-09 Great Recession, global economic growth has downshifted. Indeed, for many economists, it has become increasingly clear that we have transitioned to a slower-growth world.

Hampered by aging workforces, persistently low levels of business investment and widespread policy and political uncertainty, the advanced economies in particular face diminished prospects. At the same time, business leaders and policy-makers are struggling with new risks amid a backlash against globalization and trade. Despite all of these challenges, with little fanfare British Columbia has been enjoying what can only be described as an economic boom.

Let’s briefly recap B.C.’s recent economic record. For the past three years, real GDP (the most comprehensive measure of living standards) has been growing by more than 3%, a pace that seems out of reach for most of today’s advanced economies. Specifically, our economy expanded by 3.3% in both 2014 and 2015, followed by a hefty 3.7% gain in 2016. The job market has also been hot. Overall, British Columbia has led Canada in economic and employment growth charts for the past three years. And according to a new forecast from RBC, we are poised for a repeat performance in 2017.

Looking further afield, tracking by the Business Council of British Columbia finds that B.C. eclipsed all 50 American states in real GDP growth in 2016, with the sole exception of Washington state, where output also rose by 3.7%.

The benefits of robust GDP growth are readily apparent, notably in the labour market. The number of people working in B.C. increased by 3.2% in 2016. For a mature economy, this is a stellar number – especially considering that all provinces other than Ontario and Quebec suffered net job losses last year. Since the beginning of 2015, job growth in B.C. has been running two to three times ahead of that in Ontario and Quebec. With more people working, the unemployment rate averaged 6% in 2016, the lowest in the country. At the risk of belabouring the comparisons, stateside only Oregon saw faster job creation in 2016, while Utah and Florida tied B.C. on this metric.

As a new government eagerly anticipates taking the reins of power in Victoria, our incoming political masters should know that they are inheriting an economy with substantial forward momentum – albeit one that’s been growing at an above-average clip for three years. Solid increases in GDP, employment and consumer spending have resulted in upside surprises for provincial revenue, paving the way for a string of annual budget surpluses.

We expect B.C.’s economy to cool after a period of unusually buoyant growth. But there are still reasons for optimism. One is that job creation has accelerated further in 2017, with employment over January through May up 3.6% compared with the same period last year. Economic growth has also been fairly well balanced across sectors. Exports are on a tear, tourism and film/TV production are both doing a roaring business, and the high-technology sector continues to expand and diversify.

In addition, prices for many of B.C.’s natural resource exports are mostly higher than they were 12 to 24 months ago, providing vital support to our still resource-centric export economy. Then, too, the immigration and migration numbers are healthy, and consumer spending continues to increase at an above-average pace. While it is true that the housing sector and residential real estate generally have made oversized contributions to economic growth in B.C. since 2014, we see little indication of a major housing downturn – construction of new homes and renovation spending remain elevated and home sales are still strong.

It is also worth noting that B.C. has been experiencing impressive economic growth notwithstanding lacklustre non-residential investment – and without any of the various planned liquefied natural gas projects getting underway (although there has been a significant amount of related and preparatory spending). Apart from Site C, few major greenfield industrial projects have advanced in recent years. If the province’s current growth dynamic is supplemented by progress on new infrastructure and industrial development proposals, it’s conceivable that B.C. could continue to lead the country in economic growth for a few more years. 

Jock Finlayson is the Business Council of British Columbia’s executive vice-president and chief policy officer; Ken Peacock is the council’s chief economist.

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