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This N.B. Entrepreneur Wants To Bring The Craft Beer Experience To The Wine Industry

Henry Yates pitching Enso Beverage Company at a recent event for Enterprise Saint John's Venture Validation program, July 2018. (Image: Submitted)

SAINT JOHN– A New Brunswick entrepreneur is planning to bring the craft beer experience to the wine industry.

Henry Yates is the founder of Enso Beverage Company, a company that will regularly offer different kinds of wines from around the world and sell them in 250 ml cans at the liquor store.

Much like the way many people go into the liquor store and grab new beers from craft breweries to try, Yates wants people to be able to do the same thing with wine.

“What we want to create is a bit of a treasure hunt for customers, so when they come into the liquor store, they can take away multiple cans of wine because they are smaller 250 ml cans. What we want them to be able to do is take some red, take some white, take some from France, take some from Italy and all over the place in a variety pack,” says Yates.

“To create more of that vibe that the craft beer has, but with wine, because right now that’s the problem. A 750 ml bottle is just not something you’re going to buy four or five of to take with you for an evening, but people will take a smaller-sized can with them.”

Yates says the wine offerings will be in regular rotation.

“What we want to do is keep a fresh rotation coming in every month so that essentially everything we sell will be of limited quantity,’ he says. “We won’t have anything twice. It will be a constant rotation of new products and that’s what we want. That’s what our trends are telling us customers want as well.”

Enso’s wine will be sourced and bought in bulk from different online wine markets.

“There are online markets, one is called Grape Connect and the Vinx, they are two of many and you can buy it by the litre,” says Yates. “You can have samples sent to your home so you can try before you buy it and then you get it sent to you in larger totes. Either 1,000 litre totes or when I get big enough, 24,000-litre bladders that go inside shipping containers.”

Like the craft beer industry, Enso will then use a mobile canning company to package its products.

The concept of drinking wine from a can isn’t new. Wineries such as Jacobs Creek already have canned wine offerings. But Yates says what makes Enso Beverage Company different is the variety he will be able to offer. He is not tied to any one winery or company.

“The one thing that makes me different is that I am going to work on that variety and I am going to buy off of that world market,” he says. “I’m not dedicated to a single drink variety or anything like that. We want to stay innovative, so we’ll start with still wines and then we’ll go with sparkling, then we’ll branch out later into gin and vodka-based drinks as well.”

Yates says he’s already in talks with the New Brunswick Liquor Corporation about bringing Enso Beverages to its stores. The idea was well received.

“They’re seeing canned wine fly off their shelves . . . They also acknowledge that there is that growing trend of people wanting to come in and wanting something new everytime they come in,” says Yates. “They see a need for it and they were actually pretty excited about the idea.”

The goal isn’t to stop with New Brunswick. Yates envisions Enso Beverages going regional and national.

“We’re going to start here in New Brunswick, then we’re already starting to try to get meetings with Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and once we finish Atlantic Canada, we’ll go national,” he says. “Basically, we want to get in a truck and not stop until we hit Vancouver.”

Navigating each province’s liquor boards will be a challenging process, but Yates says it’s something that’s just part of working in this industry.

“It is what it is, and we’re starting to form good relations with them already. I say in my presentation that all roads lead to Rome, so if you want to sell alcoholic beverages in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., all roads lead through their monopolies,” he says. “All you have to do is learn the rules, learn who has the established relationships, work with them, and create a good business where both of you win and it will be fine.”

Right now, Yates says they are in the process of testing different wines for their initial round. The goal is to be in NB Liquor stores later this fall.

“Focus groups with testing will start at the end of August and continue through September,” he says. “Our goal is to be in ANBL retail outlets by October/November.”