The story behind Malinda Distributors.

Importers and distributors of LOXTON de-alcoholized (0.5%) wines.

Hi! We are Malinda Distributors Inc. (I’m the MA in Malinda and my wife is the Linda in the Malinda!) Our office is located in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. LOXTON is a registered trademark of Malinda Distributors Inc.

We started our company in 1987. One of us was pregnant and like other people we tried the one or two alternative beverages available in stores at the time. We remember sitting in a restaurant one evening. The waiter stopped by the table and asked if we would like a drink. We explained that one of us was pregnant and we wouldn’t be drinking alcohol. The next thing we knew, the wine glasses were off the table and that was the last time we saw the waiter until the food arrived.

At the time there was one line of de-alcoholized wine available in grocery stores but really the selection was lacking variety, distribution was poor and the available product didn’t taste very good. The stores did not treat de-alcoholized wines seriously and they were only used for decorating the cheese table in deli’s. You would not find de-alcoholized wine in the main beverage isle. Thinking that there must be other couples like us who did not drink alcohol when pregnant or for other health reasons, we decided to search the world for the best tasting de-alcoholized wine that we could sell to retailers. We were getting tired of drinking sparking apple cider! We longed for variety and a little more sophistication.

Our first desk was the kitchen table, where we composed a letter on an old typewriter and sent it out to some hundred wineries in search of a worthy de-alcoholized wine. We received hardly any responses. Not many wineries have the expertise to produce a de-alcoholized wine. However, we did receive three responses and we ordered samples. We were so excited when the samples arrived that we immediately gathered several friends for a tasting. There was no doubt which company produced the best product.

We knew that without a good tasting de-alcoholized wine we would never succeed. The samples came from a company in Australia, Penfolds Wines, (who would have known, eh !) It was a fine tasting de-alcoholized wine, very drinkable, a light wine taste and bouquet and wine-like presentation.

We were so convinced that we suggested to the winery that they should produce a line of de-alcoholized wines for us up here in Canada. We received our first products in June 1989. All the stores wanted to carry Loxton and we soon discovered how many people enjoyed our wines! But I have to say that it was a lot of hard work along the way.

Not everything went smoothly. Back in 1988 de-alcoholized wine and beer were taxed in Canada by two separate government departments. LOXTON was the only beverage in Canada that would be taxed as a wine and taxed as a juice. We would have to pay upwards of 36% duties and taxes on our de-alcoholized wines when our first order arrived! This was not right and we had to do something. We began in 1988 to lobby the federal government to have the duties/taxes reduced before our first shipment arrived. Well, it worked, but only half way. The April 1989 budget reduced the duties on de-alcoholized beer but not on de-alcoholized wine. How can you reduce the duties on one and not the other we cried! We began to lobby five different federal government departments, for 16 months! Michael Wilson, finance minister, came to town for a Chamber of Commerce meeting and we decided to become members in order to meet him and present our case. Finally, in August 1990 the duties were adjusted on de-alcoholized wines. The minister in charge of excise taxes actually sent us a letter of thanks for all the effort gone into getting the duties reduced.

Our objective now was to build our brand so people would immediately know the product by hearing the name. Once we attained some decent distribution we started our five-year promotion program with store demos, magazine, radio and TV advertising, participation in in-store promotion programs and participation in consumer and industry trade shows and even appearing on radio talk shows.

We were literally the first company to promote de-alcoholized wines through media advertising, at least in Canada. People heard the ads, purchased the wines and enjoyed what they tasted. Over time consumers grew to recognize the LOXTON brand. However, promotions are expensive. I think because we might have lacked a little business savvy, being new to the business world, had a wide-eyed outlook, optimistic as hell, we may have spent a little recklessly on promotions. But sometimes having too much knowledge can slow progress. No doubt we would have kept our promo spending in line with our sales if we had more business and accounting experience. But what the hell, we thought promoting our products was more important. Sales would come – eventually.

At the time, in 1987/88, it was becoming socially unacceptable to drink and drive. Penalties for drinking and driving were becoming stiffer and who could risk losing their driver’s license. Hard liquor sales were dropping and wine sales were levelling off. People were looking for possible alternative beverages.

It seemed like the timing was right for the success of our de-alcoholized wines in the marketplace. People were becoming more conscious about drinking and driving even though it seemed like the numbers of drinking and driving offences were increasing. The times were changing. No longer would one be intimidated at a party if you weren’t drinking alcohol.

We came to believe that the perfect retailer for de-alcoholized wines would be the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch. After all, it is a wine. It just has low alcohol content. The BCLDB was developing a social responsibility program and we thought the BCLDB should have a line of de-alcoholized wines to help support their new social responsibility programs and as well offer the shopper a one-stop shopping experience, and they agreed! The idea was for the shopper to pick up a de-alcoholized wine for their non-drinking guests, (drivers maybe?) while purchasing their regular liquor refreshments.  We met with the purchasing manager, made our presentation and then waited, following up a couple of times.  It took a while but in mid 1991 the BCLDB decided to list the LOXTON Wines. This was a first for a provincial liquor jurisdiction in Canada.

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